Gary Day

September 10, 2004

The sinister Clarke had set Lecturer on the road to Vanity Fair armed only with a scroll called the 'White Paper'. But many obstacles lay ahead...

As I walked through the wilderness of higher education I lighted on a campus and laid me down to sleep. And as I slept, I dreamed a dream.

Behold, I saw a man with a great burden on his back, clothed in rags. And he had a book in his hand and he cried, "What shall I do?" And in my dream I saw a man named Clarke come to him and ask, "Wherefore dost thou cry?"

"Sir," replied the man, "I perceive by the book in my hand that there is much to learn." "Rubbish," shouted Clarke, and gave him a White Paper on which was written "the need for reform". "Whither must I go?" asked Lecturer, for that was his name, and Clarke said: "Do you see those shining lights?" "Yes," said Lecturer. "That is Vanity Fair," said Clarke. "Go directly there and do what it is commanded on the Roll I have given you; then your burden will vanish."

And Lecturer was shortly joined by one Scholar who asked whither he was bound. "To Vanity Fair," he answered. "What is it that you seek?" cried Scholar. "Stronger partnerships between Higher Education Institutions in each region and the regional development agencies and other agencies charged with promoting economic development," replied Lecturer.

"Tush," cried Scholar, "come back with me and study." "No, not I," said Lecturer, "for I have laid my hand on the White Paper." And Scholar shook her head and returned to ponder the inheritance that fadeth not away.

And I saw in my dream that after Lecturer had walked a little way he did suddenly fall into a miry bog called the Slough of Higher Education and Business Exchanging and Developing Knowledge and Skills. Here he struggled, unsure if he could help his university embed itself in its regional economies, making sure it was also closely linked with the emerging agendas of RDAs. And, as he struggled, a man came up to him. "What is your name?"

asked Lecturer. "Johnson. Alan Johnson. Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education." And Lecturer was amazed for he had heard of such a man, but never thought he existed. "I was expecting Help," said Lecturer, who had read the book I seemed to be dreaming. "I will help you," said Johnson, who began to recite an old speech called "Productivity through Partnership". This inspired Lecturer to free himself quickly from the Slough so he could be on his way.

And as Lecturer was walking in solitude, he espied one afar off coming towards him. And this person's name was Academic. "Where goest thou?"

inquired Academic. "Vanity Fair." "Wherefore?" asked Academic. "Why, to equip the labour force with appropriate and relevant skills, stimulate innovation and support productivity and enrich the quality of life," said Lecturer. And I saw in my dream Clarke, with a severe and dreadful countenance, coming to meet Lecturer, and Academic did flee at the sight of him. Clarke reproved Lecturer, saying that Academic always wasted time by asking dodgy questions such as: "Where does this come from? How does it stand in relation to that? How relatively important does it seem." "You must hate him," he said, "for setting your feet in the way of thinking, for that can never free you of your burden."

And Clarke called to Downing Street for confirmation and, behold, Lecturer's flesh did creep. "Go, and do not turn off the way again," Clarke commanded.

And I saw in my dream that Lecturer did light on a place called Interpreter's House and there he saw a strange thing. A picture of a very grave person called Blair whose eyes were lifted to Heaven and in whose hand was a book called A Brief's Guide to Truth. "What means this?"

Lecturer asked. "It means," said the Interpreter, "that this man's work is to slight and despise those things that do not make a profit. Remember this, lest in thy journey thou meet with some that pretend to lead thee right but their way doth not raise the skills of the workforce at all levels nor ensure that the education and training system is responding effectively to demand from employers."

Lecturer went his way, but was afeared he might have to do battle with a dread beast Intellectual. But Mr Business, whom he encountered on the way, told him Intellectual had been driven from these parts for ever.

And then I saw in my dream Lecturer arrive within sight of Vanity Fair, but between him and the Fair was a motorway with much traffic. And Lecturer made bold to cross, but was struck down by a lorry, several cars, a caravan and a motorbike. And yea, his burden was gone.

Gary Day is principal lecturer in English at De Montfort University. The Fourth Triennial Conference of the International Bunyan Society was held this week at De Montfort University.

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