Could these nightmares ever happen to you?

October 10, 1997

University of Armageddon

Over-enthusiastic recruitment has swollen Armageddon's new intake. Administrative strategy last year was directed at slimming the salary bill to release funds for new appointments in areas of strength.

The tactic adopted was to plan the demise of departments deemed unpopular or lowly-rated. This involved doctoring the annual planning statement (produced in July to ensure no one reads it) and "demonstrating" that some areas would have no students by the year 2000. However, guerrilla action by staff in the threatened departments has frustrated this plan. By exceeding their admissions target they have ensured that new appointments are urgently needed in precisely the areas destined for amalgamation or closure. Meanwhile the "strong" departments, unable to achieve the ambitious new intake targets set for them, find that their strength is being constantly eroded by the departure of star performers.

lt was unfortunate that last year's decision to appoint Armageddon's four new central purchasing officers preceded the decision to freeze all non-essential spending. The new posts were a response to audit criticism of former inefficient practices. However, this year's audit-inspired administration review suggests that "very firm management" may be needed in the staffing area also. The clamp-down on spending required new financial controls. Initially, proposals for expenditure of more than Pounds 100 had to be countersigned by a dean. That threshold was later lowered to Pounds 10 to show that the university really does have a grip on its finances. Savings were especially dramatic during the summer vacation when no deans could be found and departments found themselves borrowing stationery.

Reports are emerging that the new chair of Armageddon's governing body, a former lieutenant of industry, intensely disliked the introductory meetings he attended last year - especially the seven-hour discussion of finances and staffing. Discussion items are now limited to matters like the HEFCE memorandum on severance payments to senior staff earning over Pounds 50,000 per annum. Local topics are to be the subject of oral reports by senior officers. It is hoped that this will allow meetings to be over in time for tea, now taken at home since the auditors commented on the lavish liberality dispensed in the former vice chancellor's lodge.

Armageddon's new management information system has arrived three years late. Some teething problems have prevented departments receiving any lists of the names of their new students, but happily those departments that still have stationery mostly remembered to write down the names of newcomers during the nine-hour registration ordeal.

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