What an evening!

October 29, 2009

"Don't ask me whether I enjoyed myself. I can't remember a thing after we ordered those last six bottles of Pauillac." Just one of the enthusiastic responses this newsletter has received from members of the 46-strong Poppleton delegation that attended this year's Times Higher Education Awards ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel.

Not everyone at Poppleton, however, shared the enthusiasm of the 46 senior administrators who made up the "Grosvenor House gang". Speaking to The Poppletonian, Mr Ted Odgers of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies described the occasion as "a junket".

"Why on earth did the university feel the need to spend nearly £10,000 sending a bunch of already overpaid administrators to the ceremony when Poppleton not only failed to win any award but was not even nominated in any of the 96 categories? It's a bit like sending a crowd of people who've never been to the pictures to the Oscars."

But our Deputy Head of REF Strategy, Brian Bryan (pictured dancing with his partner to the hit disco record, YMCA), defended the investment.

"Every year, the size of the Poppleton contingent at the Awards increases by at least 10 per cent. At this rate, it can't be long before the sheer weight of numbers ensures that one or other of us will end up on the stage."

Measuring impact

Several readers of this newsletter have complained about the difficulty of assessing the impact of the large number of recent statements about impact being made by senior figures in higher education. Liam Shanks of our Butterflies Department describes the situation as "verging on the chaotic". In this, the first in a weekly series, we are therefore pleased to bring you the latest for and against impact statements, together with an assessment of their relevant impact.

Against (or pretty well against) the use of impact in the REF

  • Philip Moriarty, Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham
  • Six Nobel laureates led by Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, University of Cambridge
  • Don Braben, Earth Sciences, University College London
  • David Willetts, Shadow Universities Secretary

For (or pretty well for) the use of impact in the REF

  • John Beddington, Chief Scientific Adviser
  • The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Alan Thorpe, Chair of Research Councils UK

Not exactly for or against impact in the REF

  • Michael Arthur, vice-chancellor, Leeds. How about 10% impact factor rather than 25%?
  • The Higher Education Policy Institute. Failure to include "academic impact" would lead to charges of "philistinism"

Our assessment of impact

Not an easy one, but we reckon that those six Nobel laureates plus David Willetts just about swing it. So this week's maximum impact on impact award goes to non-impact. Well done everyone. On to next week.

Thought for the Week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

I'm sorry to have to say this, but there's really no point at all in anyone else sending in an email complaining about the fact that there are no more places available for this term's Anger Management seminars. There aren't any more places and that's that. Honestly, if you think you can do this job better than me, just say so. Or otherwise shut up. And that's my final word on the matter. So there.


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