Fourth Degree by Laurie Taylor – 27 September 2018

All campus life is here

September 27, 2018
Source: Getty

Cold shower for new Bath v-c

In what the press have labelled a “Breakwell moment”, the University of Bath has announced that its new vice-chancellor, Ian White, will be paid a far more modest stipend than that enjoyed by his illustrious predecessor. In cash terms, that means goodbye to Dame Glynis’ total of £468,000 per annum and hello to Professor White’s breadline pittance of £303,000.

A university spokesperson described the news as something of a setback to Bath’s growing prestige. “Tabloids that suggested that the extravagant treatment of our principal paralleled the worst excesses of the Borgias did much to place Bath firmly on the map. We now have little alternative but to resort to our original claim on public attention: ‘The only UK university less than a 20-minute drive from Bristol.’”

Management Revolution at Scottish University!

A staff circular issued by one of Scotland’s leading universities and leaked to Fourth Degree earlier this week reveals an extraordinary new approach to management strategy. From its very first sentence the leaked document propounds its radical message with exceptional clarity:

“We have now commenced the initial modelling work to identify the options required to ensure the continued investment in the delivery of an excellent student experience.”

And in case any staff member had not recognised the full import of that “initial modelling work”, the document succinctly expands on the management strategy:

“In identifying the further measures needed to enable us to fully deliver on the ambitions within our corporate strategy and align our structures with the changing nature of the work we do, we require to rebalance our workforce.”

But as the document ruefully reveals, some of that workforce may have already rebalanced itself:

“The Vice-Principal for Engagement has retired and the Chief Operating Officer also leaves soon…The Chief Information Officer also leaves at the end of this year.”

Not that such defections cause the writer of the document to become downhearted:

“We are currently reviewing what substantive arrangements will be put in place for this portfolio going forward.”

Has your management team produced a plan that can match the radical clarity of this document? Fourth Degree would love to hear.

Letters to the Editor

Dear Fourth Degree,

I am a serving academic at the University of Leicester where, as you may have read, all members of staff are encouraged to say the word “menopause” at least three times a day in order to break down taboos.

I thought I should let you know that following the success of this campaign, academic staff are now being urged to utter a number of other taboo terms. These include “teaching only”, “research inactive” and “compulsory retirement”.

Yours sincerely

Geoffrey Frontbottom (Dr)

Departmental Heads Traumatised!

As we go to press we learn that this year’s dramatic decline in student applications has left some university departments with a severe numerical shortfall.

At one well-known university, a departmental head described the acute sense of loss generated by the need to give his traditional welcoming oration to an audience of only two students (Louise Comstock and Simon Witherspoon).

Another departmental head from mid-Wales experienced the classic symptoms of agoraphobia when he was required to explain the excitement of studying economic and social history, the best route to the library and the opening hours of the health centre to a single metallurgy student who had mistaken the room number.

A consultant psychiatrist told Fourth Degree that such traumatic reactions were not unexpected. “Although the discovery that no one is listening to a word you are saying is not an uncommon experience for the average academic, the sudden recognition that this is literally the case – what psychiatrists term ‘The Vince Cable Syndrome’ – can have irreversible effects upon one’s self-esteem.”

Horoscopes for Intellectuals

This month’s sign is Libra, the Scales, an astrological sign set between Gemini and Aquarius. Academics born under this sign can look forward to a largely miserable unfulfilled life as their original intellectual aspirations are repeatedly frustrated by ongoing managerial imperatives. You have no lucky days.

Zodiac colour: Heliotrope blue

Lucky number: 0.12833 (recurring)

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