Our vice-chancellor has vigorously rebutted the suggestion that vice-chancellors have failed to speak out on higher education policy.
He told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that he particularly resented the allegation by Thomas Docherty, professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Warwick, that vice-chancellors “seem to feel they always have to be diplomatic and realistic” and are therefore unable to take “risks”.
Ponting wondered if there were any examples that confounded Professor Docherty’s allegation. Had any vice-chancellor, for example, raised concerns about the tuition fees policy?
“Not as such.”
Or the manner in which higher education is increasingly geared to vocational outcomes?
“Not in so many words.”
Or the handing over of large sums of public money in the shape of student loans to for-profit colleges?
“Not exactly that.”
So where might an example be found?
Our vice-chancellor immediately recalled the day when David Willetts, the universities and science minister, had visited Universities UK and proclaimed the unqualified success of his higher education policy:
“Even as we struck up the first chorus of ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’, I noticed that the vice-chancellor of a modest northern university had one hand below the table. And when I looked down I could clearly see that he had shaped two fingers of that hidden hand into a V sign.”
The revolution starts here!
Very ugly teacher triumphs
Discontent among academics is rife following the announcement that this year’s Top Teaching Award has gone to Gordon Lapping, the head of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies.
Some critics questioned the award on the grounds that Professor Lapping’s lectures had routinely received only 10 per cent approval on student evaluation forms and that even this rating might be generous as it was derived from the opinion of the only two students still attending Lapping’s course on the day of the evaluation.
However, our Deputy Head of Student Experience, Nancy Harbinger, defended the result. She pointed out that the judges had gone to great pains to take into account research from the US and Germany which showed that better-looking teachers were evaluated more favourably.
In line with the suggestion made in a letter to Times Higher Education from Daniel Hamermesh of Royal Holloway, University of London and David de Meza of the London School of Economics, this clearly necessitated an adjustment of marks to compensate less attractive teachers.
Professor Lapping gained such compensation on the basis of a wide range of designated criteria: furrowed brow, sagging cheeks, advanced hair loss, downcast mouth, dry lips and egg-stained pullover.
Attempts by The Poppletonian to contact Professor Lapping proved unsuccessful. His departmental secretary, Maureen, understood he was in town intending to celebrate his success with the purchase of a string vest and a pair of tasselled brogues.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
David Mead, professor of UK human rights law at the University of East Anglia, has suggested that university managers spend a day a month on ‘the shop floor’ so as to assess the effect of their policies on working academics. In order to ensure the success of this venture we are offering a series of ‘orienting talks’ for managers. These include tips on how to find such key academic institutions as the library and the senior common room, a guide to academic jargon (‘don’, ‘viva’, ‘in absentia’, ‘aegrotat’ and ‘self-immolation’) and basic firearms training. Apply in the usual manner, marking your application ‘Lion’s Den’.