Dirty play gets the prize

December 18, 1998

A board game satirising university life is set to be a big hit with German academics this Christmas.

The object of the Campus board game is to climb to the top of the greasy pole of academia - the winner is the first professor to win a Nobel prize.

But the path to glory is not smooth. Along the way, players are impeded by PhD candidates and administrative work. They can speed their way up the fame and fortune ladder only by using the old-boy network, by tricking and bribing colleagues or by winning recognition at the expense of their assistants.

"The game simulates the long path of an academic career and reflects academic reality - but unlike real academic life, it is a lot of fun," says the marketing blurb for the game produced by German publisher Eichborn Verlag, based in Frankfurt am Main.

The game is a merchandising spin-off from a comic novel, The Campus, by Hamburg University English studies professor Dietrich Schwanitz. The book is a scathing satire on German university life about a professor whose career comes unstuck after an affair with a student. The book was a bestseller in Germany, and this year was turned into a successful film.

It has also inspired a new genre of campus crime writing. The latest to hit the bookshops is Amok im Audimax, a collection of 14 stories of "blood-soaked universities, the meanest professors and the nastiest students" - all written by academics and students.

Professor Schwanitz, now a well-known critic of Germany's higher education system, told The THES that his book opened the floodgates to this satirical view of German universities by violating the taboo of political correctness.

"I was the child who said the emperor was naked," he said. "For years people did not feel they were allowed to address the problems created by the 1970s expansion of higher education and mass universities. It was not politically correct. So the pressure built up and my novel burst it."

Professor Schwanitz has given up his post at Hamburg University but the higher education system cannot expect a reprieve. His latest novel, Der Zirkel, is set in the education ministry.

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