Fourth degree by Laurie Taylor – 21 February 2019

All campus life is here

February 21, 2019
Source: iStock montage

Say ‘Cheese’

Laurie Taylor reports

Hot on the heels of the news that York College of Pennsylvania has been forced to apologise for Photoshopping two ethnic minority students into its latest advertising billboards come reports that the UK’s University of Steeple Bumpleigh has been arraigned by the Advertising Standards Authority for a rather similar sleight of hand.

In its judgement, the ASA described the university’s decision to Photoshop the Bodleian Library into its “View of the Campus” montage as “seriously misleading”. But it reserved its harshest criticism for the university’s decision to Photoshop Martin Heidegger into the prospectus illustration titled “Our Up and Coming Philosophy Team”.

A spokesperson for the university apologised for these “misjudgements” and “promised” that its vice-chancellor would respond in full to these criticisms just as soon as he discovered who was responsible for Photoshopping a portrait of Pinocchio on to the head of his New Year’s staff message.

Learning to love the TEF

“It’s not necessarily bad news.”

That was how Dr Hugo Carmody, head of teaching excellence framework at the University College of King’s Deverill, responded to the news that of 2,838 would-be university students surveyed for the Department for Education, only 43 per cent were even aware of the existence of the TEF, while 66 per cent of those who had heard of the TEF wrongly believed that it was based upon inspections of actual teaching.

“What makes this survey so interesting”, continued Dr Carmody, “is that it provides admirably clear evidence that a method for measuring teaching excellence that makes no sense at all to the majority of serving academics is also either unknown or totally misunderstood by the majority of prospective students.”

“All in all,” concluded Dr Carmody, “it provides reassuring proof that we are all sailing in the same ship of fools.”

The OfS gets tough!

Any concerns that the UK’s newly created Office for Students might not take a firm line when addressing the excessive pay packages currently enjoyed by vice-chancellors have been laid to rest by its recent pronouncement on the subject.

As news came through that about 47 per cent of all English vice-chancellors currently earn a total of more than £300,000 a year and that the average salaries of English vice-chancellors have risen almost twice as fast as the pay of rank-and-file university staff, the OfS honoured its promise to the Commons Education Committee that “anyone being paid more than £150,000 per year will be required to justify it” by announcing that “where pay is out of kilter…vice-chancellors should be prepared to answer tough questions”.

This means that overpaid vice-chancellors must now carry on their duties in the knowledge that at some indeterminate moment in the unspecified future when the weather is more clement and the auguries are better aligned and the OfS manages to rise from its current recumbent position, they might just be asked for some sort of justification – any old justification – for their present outlandish emoluments.

As one observer put it: “It’s quite enough to make the average overpaid vice-chancellor tremble in their alligator brogues.”

Are you available?

The following was erroneously emailed to Fourth Estate earlier this week by the head of timetabling at Chuffnell Regius University College:

To: All Heads of Department

I am currently preparing next year’s timetable and therefore need to know when members of your department will be unavailable for teaching.

Teaching staff should be reminded that simply asserting their unavailability for teaching duties does not in itself constitute unavailability for teaching duties. The only unavailability officially recognised by university management is the unavailability that meets all the criteria of the current unavailability protocol and has subsequently been approved by the appropriate head of department. Once that approval has been obtained, the unavailability becomes formally recognised as “approved unavailability” and becomes relevant to future timetabling.

Any member of staff who becomes unavailable while lacking “approved unavailability” will be subject to censure by the nearest available disciplinary body.

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