For many years, there have been heated arguments about the true value of a university education. Does it broaden the mind, contribute towards a better society, or enable graduates to lead a more fulfilling life?
But that long debate may finally be over. For, after a great deal of thought, Sam Gyimah, the new universities minister, has announced that the real value of a university education is nothing more or less than the actual salary earned by individual graduates: the higher the salary, the greater the value of the degree.
Our Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, praised “this great intellectual breakthrough”. But Mr Ted Odgers of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies described it as only a beginning. “One can only hope that Mr Gyimah will now go on to devote his considerable talents to discovering equally straightforward answers to such other seemingly intractable questions as the qualifications needed to become the minister for universities.”
Magical metrical tour
Our deputy head of statistics, Dr Ernest Spearboy, has warmly commended Lancaster University for its recent development of a brand-new method for measuring the excellence of universities.
Dr Spearboy told reporter Keith Ponting (30) that Mark Smith, vice-chancellor of Lancaster, and Nicola Owen, the institution’s chief administrative officer, had come up with the wholly original idea of combining the rankings that individual universities had achieved on both the research excellence framework and the teaching excellence framework in such a way as to produce a brand-new ranking for every UK university.
But, asked Ponting, hadn’t serious concerns been raised about the reliability and validity of the REF and the TEF? In what way might adding together two dubious metrics produce a better metric?
Dr Spearboy explained that the Lancaster duo were “cognisant” of what they themselves called “the well-known concerns” about the robustness of existing metrics but nevertheless felt that the REF and the TEF data were more robust measurements of quality than “brand references or historical reputation”.
“So, all in all,” suggested Ponting, “they felt that by adding together two relatively inadequate measures they were producing something rather less inadequate than something else that was arguably more inadequate. Did any particular type of university prosper under the new ranking scheme?”
“Oh yes. The new rankings very much favoured medium-sized, campus-based, genuinely research-intensive universities.”
“And how might Lancaster itself be best characterised?”
“It’s a medium-sized, campus-based, genuinely research-intensive university.”
“So how did it fare in the new rankings?”
“It emerged as the eighth best university in the country. A few places below Cambridge and Oxford and Imperial.”
“That must have been gratifying to the Lancaster duo.”
“Impossible to say. They were apparently so shocked by the outcome that they’re still quite unable to speak.”
In this regular column, Mr Ted Odgers of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies answers your emailed questions on the strike by members of the University and College Union. This one comes from “Ambivalent” of Gyimah College:
Dear Mr Odgers, I very much wanted to join my colleagues on the picket line last Wednesday but I was still suffering from a heavy cold and simply had to spend the day in bed. I keep wondering if I should email my colleagues to point out that my absence was caused by illness rather than any lack of political commitment. What do you think?
Mr Odgers replies:
“I’m afraid that I’m unable to respond to your enquiry as I’m currently on strike and therefore not answering emails. I hope this helps.”