Some academics are already national television stars, while others may dream of a life treading the boards, selling out London’s O2 arena or appearing on the silver screen.
However, one thing is for sure: a glance at some of the names on UK universities’ payrolls gives the impression that a number of global superstars already work in teaching and research.
“Mel Gibson works here at Northumbria Uni, and specialises in comics,” revealed the North East university’s Gendered Subjects Research Group on Twitter (@SubjectGender).
Alas, rather than announcing a career change for the Hollywood actor, the tweet was a response to a call by Times Higher Education (@timeshighered) for famous namesakes working at universities.
It stemmed from an article in 9 May’s THE, in which University of Lancaster vice-chancellor Mark E. Smith revealed that one of his research paper abstracts had been read out by the late BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, owing to the fact he shared his name with the singer of post-punk band The Fall.
In one of the star-studded responses to our #HEnamegame, Richard Ashcroft (not the Verve frontman, but professor of bioethics at Queen Mary, University of London) reached us via @qmulbioethics to note that Keith Richards, contrary to rumours that he is the Rolling Stones’ guitarist, “is professor of geography at Cambridge”.
The music theme continued with University of Manchester history lecturer Jerome de Groot (@deggy21). “Not a 100% match,” he tweeted, “but [there is] my esteemed colleague Noelle Gallagher”, who lectures in 18th-century literature and culture at the institution just around the corner from the birthplace of the famous Gallagher brothers.
The music world is not the only source of mistaken identities. “We have Maggie Smith…(but Prof not Dame),” said University of York biology lecturer Thorunn Helgason (@luehea), adding: “Oddly enough, this never happens to me”.
Queen’s University Belfast has a double whammy of famous names. “Chemistry and Chemical Engineering has an Andrew Marr…we also have a newsworthy Dr Moira Stewart in our Centre for Medical Education,” revealed its twitter feed (@QueensUBelfast).
Some namesakes were themselves quick to get in touch, with James Brown (@JamesABrown1), lecturer in contexts of practice at Plymouth College of Art, tweeting to assure us that he was not famous for feeling good.
Rupa Huq (@RupaHuq), senior lecturer in sociology at Kingston University, suggested that Keith Kahn-Harris (@KeithKahnHarris) “hyphenated his name on marriage to stop Orville the duck references I suspect”. “That wasn’t the reason but it was a definite bonus!” confessed the associate fellow of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.
However, perhaps the most remarkable namecheck came from Elaine Andrew (@halfpricechamp), senior information assistant at Northumbria University library. “We have a Hans-Christian Andersen”, she tweeted, referring to the university’s senior lecturer in marketing travel and tourism management.
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