Call for entries to raise the error bar once more

July 16, 2009

Remember the economics student who attributed the run on Northern Rock to the "laxative enforcement policies" of the Financial Services Authority?

Or last year's winning insight into the work of author Margaret Atwood: "The Handmaid's Tale shows how patriarchy treats women as escape goats"?

Yes, it is that time of the year again. Times Higher Education is inviting entries to its annual "exam howlers" competition - the chance for scholars to share this year's most off-the-wall offerings.

Past gems include a theology student who concluded that "mouth- to-mouth prophecy was no longer effective" and a law student who thought "devilled work" was "a type of Creole cookery".

Last summer, readers were treated to the highlights from one professor's lifetime collection, which included the following: "Service products are often intangible, perishable, inseparable and heterogenital"; "Bangkok's notoriously girly bars attract businessmen and larger louts"; "The Loire Valley inspired the chef to cook delicacies such as salmon, elves and lamprey"; and "Air stewardesses step into the role of portraying their front region, as the job requires them to".

Some of the errors have taken on new significance since last year, such as: "Control of infectious diseases is very important in case an academic breaks out."

"Christ's temptation in the dessert" was a near-winner in the howler competition one year, but competition has always been fierce.

For example, there was the case of the history student who proclaimed that "the slave trade was one of those institutions that seems like a marvellous idea at the time", and a would-be developmental psychologist's assertion that "if a child is left out for more than 20 hours a day it would have a devastating effect on their development".

Readers are invited to email examples of student slip-ups to the address below by 30 July. To protect the guilty, we ask that students' identities be removed. A magnum of champagne will go to the academic who submits the winning entry.

- Please send entries to: rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com.

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