This old house

October 11, 2012

A controversial article by a Poppleton academic in the latest edition of The British Journal of Experimental Symbolism (Vol 22: 33-74) suggests a strong symbolic connection between the present thoroughly debilitated condition of higher education in this country and the thoroughly dilapidated state of David Willetts' second home in Havant, Hampshire.

In the article, Dr Quintock of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies points out that attempts by Mr Willetts to improve his house in Havant began in the same year that he was appointed Minister for Universities. "It is clear", writes Quintock, "that in both cases the Minister was intent upon making major changes to both institutions: the extensive scaffolding in Havant was symbolically complemented by a new rickety financial structure for the university sector."

However, Quintock continues, both institutions soon began to fall apart. The work on the Havant house revealed that the building was "structurally unsafe", while the new university funding system ended up in what one leading analyst described as "tightly regulated chaos".

Quintock further embraces the "symbolic symmetry" by pointing to the "remarkable similarity" between the present condition of UK universities and a neighbour's description in the Daily Mail of the Havant property as "a beautiful historic building" that is now falling apart.

He finds an even "more telling correspondence" between the reduced number of economically disadvantaged students now applying to university and reports that the Havant scaffolding "forces wheelchair users off the pavement".

In a final symbolic flourish, Quintock suggests that the lobelia plant now reportedly growing out of the roof of the Havant building can be interpreted as the last sign of life in an otherwise terminally ill institution.

Professor Gordon Lapping, the Head of Quintock's department, described his colleague's paper as further proof of the capacity of cultural studies to find "sermons in stones and meaning in almost anything".

Grave error

Our vice-chancellor has publicly condemned the "silly prank" that led to a mistaken new staff appointment in Humanities.

In a letter of explanation, he says that he had agreed to the appointment after the news that the University of Bath Spa had recently added the novelist Fay Weldon to its growing list of celebrated writers and artists.

Poppleton's ensuing advertisement offering a well-paid post to a leading literary figure had attracted a letter of interest from a man who referred to his "extensive theatrical work" and the current presence of one of his leading plays in "a well-known West End theatre".

The subsequent decision to appoint this applicant had been taken "in good faith". However, after the failure of the successful candidate to appear on campus, further enquiries were initiated and it was established that the appointee, a Mr Henrik Ibsen, had been dead for more than a hundred years and enjoyed a very poor command of English.

This disappointment had not, however, dampened the university's enthusiasm for literary appointments. The vice-chancellor revealed that he was "even now" considering a recently received application from "up-and-coming novelist" Samuel Richardson.

Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

I'm delighted that our state-of-the-art stress reduction programme has led Poppleton to fall to second place in the brand-new UCU stress survey.

Would all those who have completed the programme please now return their two steel ball bearings to the Development Office?

Thank you.

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