Xmas Awards announced!
As regular readers will remember, this is the time of year when The Poppletonian announces the winners of its special awards for those who have made a distinctive contribution to higher education during the past 12 months. There are five major categories:
The Golden Ostrich
There was a wide range of contenders for an award that traditionally honours those with a special capacity to make the best of things. In the end, however, the judges decided that when it came to relentless optimism there was nobody who could rival Nick Petford, the vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton, who, having no doubt paid due attention to the battery of high-level condemnations of the gross greediness of certain vice-chancellors, still felt able to declare that the row would soon “blow over”. A worthy winner.
The Marie Antoinette Award
In this traditionally well-contested category, which honours those with little conception of the lives of others, it was refreshing to find unanimity among the judges. After only a brief discussion, they decided that the award simply must go to the University of Southampton for its decision to advertise for a chauffeur to drive around its administrative staff in the same week in which it announced the axeing of 50 to 75 academic posts. Nice one, Southampton.
The Office of Circumlocution Award
This ever-popular award goes to the university manager who has succeeded in conveying a relatively straightforward idea in a manner that makes it almost wholly inaccessible to others. This year’s winner was the chief marketing officer at the University of Leicester, who contrived to convey the idea that the university’s brand needed changing in the following award-winning fashion: “Our brand platform has been impacted by changes…[but]…refreshing and evolving our brand [will] enable us to reposition our offer and build a more distinctive and memorable brand…You are invited to a brand roll-out session where we will unveil the refreshing brand architecture.”
The Mini Bar and Trouser Press Award
This new award honours those higher education administrators who, because of their ready access to an expenses account, appear to have enjoyed a degree of overnight hospitality normally associated with itinerant rock bands. There was a strong field for this award but the judges eventually concluded that the winner must be Dame Julia Goodfellow, former vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, after this year’s revelation that her average hotel bill in 2016 was £494 a night.
The Sisyphus Award
This “award of awards” goes to anyone who has consistently applied himself or herself to the improvement of higher education but has subsequently been confronted with clear evidence of their failure. This year’s award is split between two ministers for universities, David Willetts and the current incumbent Jo Johnson, who over the past seven years have endeavoured to marketise higher education but now find themselves confronted by a report from the National Audit Office that asserts that contemporary students are in effect victims of “mis-selling” and concludes that higher education “as a market has a number of points of failure”. Well done, both.
A very Happy Christmas to all our award winners and, of course, to all our loyal readers.