Words of wisdom

July 21, 2011

Our vice-chancellor has praised what he called the "intelligent and discerning response" of Sir Alan Langlands, the chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, to concerns about the consequences for some universities of the reforms in the White Paper.

Speaking to our reporter Keith Ponting (30), the vice-chancellor explained that Sir Alan had been asked for his views on the idea that putting 85,000 student places up for grabs in the 2012-13 academic year might cause some immediate problems for some universities. "In the circumstances," said our vice-chancellor, "it would have been all too easy for him to spend a great deal of time considering the possibilities of such problems arising. Instead, Sir Alan immediately described the idea of any such institutional failure as 'daft'."

Our vice-chancellor was equally impressed by Sir Alan's readiness to comment forcefully on the fairness of the proposals, which would see universities competing for 65,000 students with top A-level grades and for 20,000 allocated solely on the basis of price.

"It would have been all too easy", our vice-chancellor went on, "for the head of an organisation concerned with the implementation of such changes to evade such a direct question. But Sir Alan once again stepped up and declared without any equivocation whatsoever that it was 'very difficult to judge'."

Our vice-chancellor said that his hopes of personally conveying these sentiments to Sir Alan were on hold since he learned that his application to join the Athenaeum Club had again been "lost in the post".

Have a great statutory!

"It's an important ingredient of our extramural communicative strategy."

That was how Kirk Swavely, our Senior Manager, External Relations, chose to characterise the new university regulations relating to "email representations of absences on statutory leave".

Mr Swavely explained that academic staff had in the past been free to use their own words when formulating email indications of their absence and the date when they would be returning to duty.

However, there had been some unfortunate departures from "this information modality". These had involved gratuitous jibes at the university ("At last! The gates of Alcatraz are open!") and unnecessarily specific references to the nature of the impending statutory leave ("Sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. Bring it all on, baby").

Mr Swavely confirmed that the new formulation would outlaw the use of the word "holiday". He told The Poppletonian that he believed the word retained resonances of enjoyment that were wholly inappropriate in the current context.

Don't look back

"We're very much taking our lead from Oxford." That was the brisk response of Roger Placement, our Deputy Director of Logo Development, to suggestions that the recent phone-hacking revelations might have undermined the status of Poppleton's News of the World Institute of Investigative Journalism.

Mr Placement argued that this institute enjoyed a pedagogic affinity with the University of Oxford's Rupert Murdoch Chair in Language and Communication. In both cases, the university had accepted very large donations in good faith and now felt it would be quite inappropriate to allow a range of relatively unproven allegations to affect "current institutional nomenclature".

It was for this reason that the university would await the final verdict of the court in The Hague before deciding whether or not to maintain its nominal commitment to the Ratko Mladic Centre for Human Rights.

Thought for the Week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

Next week's seminar on parapsychology has the intriguing title: "How many of you believe in telekinesis? Raise my hand".


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