Laurie Taylor – 7 June 2018

The official weekly newsletter of the University of Poppleton. Finem respice!

June 7, 2018
Woman measure height of tall man
Source: Getty

Measure for measure for measure

We are delighted to announce a further addition to our relentlessly expanding managerial team. Yes, it’s a big welcome to Lionel Canard, our new head of Academic Measurement.

Mr Canard, who specialises in measuring all sorts of things, told The Poppletonian that he was 82.5 per cent satisfied with his appointment. But what where his main objectives?

“Let me say straightaway that anyone like myself – with a pathological commitment to measurement – now feels very much at home in a British university.”

Who deserved the credit for this state of affairs?

“A Bronze rating would have to go to Lord Willetts for his determined efforts to measure research output, and at least a Silver to Jo Johnson for his admirable attempt to quantify teaching. And, of course, just when it seemed that there was nothing left in academic life to measure, along came Sam Gyimah with his notion of measuring teaching at subject level. That’s a Gold any day of the week.”

But was Mr Canard’s enthusiastic view of university measurement in any way qualified by the evidence that the research excellence framework had seriously distorted research practice, while the teaching excellence framework had rested on dubious data from student surveys, and the new subject-level proposals were now being heavily criticised by the Russell Group, the MillionPlus group and Universities UK?

Mr Canard said that such criticisms missed the point. “In the past, professional measurers did fret about such old-fashioned shibboleths as reliability and validity. But what’s absolutely critical in modern measurement is not the measurement per se but the ever-present knowledge that one is being measured.”

Was Mr Canard suggesting that measurement was primarily a management technique?

“I’m sorry, but we agreed to a five-minute interview. We have run over by 22 seconds. But, hey, who’s counting?!”


Try again. Fail again. Fail better

All Poppleton academics 
are required to complete 
the following questionnaire by 10am Monday morning:

  1. Have you been stuck at lectureship level for longer than any of your colleagues?
  2. Have you once again been excluded from the research excellence framework?
  3. Have you once again found your teaching condemned in student surveys?
  4. Do you regularly wake up screaming in the middle of the night? 

Our reporter, Keith Ponting (30), asked our Head of Personal Development, Jennifer Doubleday, what had prompted this development.

“It’s all down to new book titled How to be a Happy Academic, in which University of Alberta dons Alexander Clark and Bailey Sousa argue that academics need ‘to be more open to learning from failure…instead of being secret and stigmatised, failure needs to be open and embraced…All those in the academy…should share their career failures more openly’.”

Would there be any consequences for Poppleton academics who followed the Alberta advice and openly admitted their failures?

“Yes, indeed. All those academics who openly admit their failures will be openly dismissed.”

But didn’t this rather undermine the further declaration by the University of Alberta writers that such admissions of failure would help academics “to grow and learn”?

“Not at all. We very much share the hope that these admissions of failure will indeed help such academics to grow and learn. Our only slight modification to the Alberta scheme is the requirement that they do it elsewhere!” 

lolsoc@dircon.co.uk

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