Win! Win! Win!
“A Johnson come to judgement!”
This was the uncharacteristically literary manner in which Jamie Targett, our Director of Corporate Affairs, greeted the appearance of the new Green Paper on higher education.
Our reporter Keith Ponting (30) asked Mr Targett if there were specific reasons for this euphoric reaction.
“Almost too numerous to mention,” declared a beaming Mr Targett. “But I’d have to go for the new teaching excellence framework. For whereas the research excellence framework has done so much to bring researchers to heel by forcing them to abandon all that traditional research nonsense about long-term thinking and meaningful collaboration with colleagues and to turn instead to instant publication, little or nothing has been done to discipline the teaching staff.”
“Do teaching staff need disciplining?”
“You wouldn’t believe this,” said Mr Targett, “but some of our academics still give lectures that can’t be understood immediately by everyone present in the room, while others think nothing of departing for whole minutes from the core curriculum. Others actually tell jokes, relate personal anecdotes and even suggest that their subject is fun!”
“And all that will be stamped out by the TEF?”
“Oh yes. As any half-decent research academic would tell you, once you slap a number on an activity, you can almost guarantee that it will lose any of its former unexpected or idiosyncratic or utopian character.”
But did Mr Targett also approve of the metrics that would be used to assess teaching quality?
“Another Johnson triumph. They will primarily be using data from the National Student Survey, which, as we all know, is refreshingly free from bias, and also data from the employment statistics showing how much past students are earning. So, for example, if one of our former students ends up as a hedge fund manager on £250,000 a year, then it’s obvious that he or she will have been much better taught than a student who ends up as an underpaid public sector worker.”
And what were the implications for Poppleton?
“They’re quite obvious,” explained Mr Targett. “We need to spend more time and money determining the outcome of the National Student Survey, and we need to abandon all those degree courses that don’t offer well-paid employment prospects. And once we’ve done that, we’ll be able to apply to raise our fees. Eureka! A Johnson come to judgement!”
(“You said that before,” Ponting reminded him.)
A real breakthrough!
“We could well be a fully fledged university by the end of next year!”
This was the exciting prospect envisaged by Dr Luke Rutting, the Principal of the Poppleton College of Business Studies, as he digested the new Green Paper.
In the past, explained Dr Rutting, private for-profit institutions like his own with their ethical commitment to teaching only profit-making courses, had been “seriously disadvantaged” compared with their rivals in the public sector.
But many of these disadvantages had been “swept away” by the Green Paper, which not only promised private institutions a new rapid way to gain university status irrespective of their actual complement of students but also promised them “quicker access” to the student loans that were, in Dr Rutting’s words, “the very life-blood of any serious for-profit higher education venture”.
He hoped that this new “levelling of the playing field” would lead to the rapid expansion of private providers. It was, all in all, a development that inclined him and his offshore directors to regard the Green Paper as “truly golden”.
Jennifer Doubleday is considering her future.