The indie-disco guide to student fees and engagement

Nick Hillman’s knowing nod to punk in a Hepi report prompted a flurry of rock’n’roll quips on Twitter

February 19, 2015

It was perhaps to be expected when the Higher Education Policy Institute opted to name its latest publication after a song by one of the North West’s best-known bands.

After all, it was Hepi director Nick Hillman who in 2012 wrote an article for Times Higher Education confessing that he chose to study at the University of Manchester less for its eminent historians and more for the city’s glorious music scene.

So when Hepi compiled Ten Essays on Student Fees, Student Engagement and Student Choice, it was presumably an easy choice for Mr Hillman to title it What Do I Get? – a reference to the 1978 song by Buzzcocks, the punk band formed at what is now the University of Bolton in 1976.

The book, Mr Hillman says, is designed to “help students decide what and where to study and facilitates engagement with their institutions”, and “help universities as they stand to fare less badly in the cuts ahead if their costs are properly understood”.

We decided to use Hepi’s unabashed homage to the Greater Manchester music scene to have a bit of fun on our Twitter account (@timeshighered). Using the hashtag #HitReports, we asked our followers (and our journalists) to tell us what songs they would use to title fictional higher education reports, and what those reports would cover. There was no shortage of contributions.

“Losing My Religion: the decline of theology departments in universities” was the first of two REM-inspired suggestions, courtesy of Paul Greatrix (@registrarism), University of Nottingham registrar. Mike Hamlyn (@mikehamlyn), director of academic enhancement at Staffordshire University, thought Shiny Happy People would suit a report on National Student Survey outcomes – particularly apt given that the most recent results show record levels of student satisfaction sector-wide.

Higher education consultant Hugh Jones (@hughjconsulting) proposed the Wham!-influenced “I’m Your Man: gender and senior management appointments”, while trainee journalist Joe Oliver (@joe_oliver), who tweets regularly about higher education policy, suggested that Close Every Door from the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat would be appropriate for research into “Home Office Visa Policy and Higher Education implications”.

THE journalists also got involved, with deputy features editor Paul Jump (@PaulJump) proposing 20 Seconds to Comply by London rapper Silver Bullet as a suitable prefix for “An analysis of Sir Mark Walport’s relationship with the research base”. Books editor Karen Shook (@timeshigherarts) contributed several, including the Specials-inspired “Ghost Town: universities’ teacher training departments in the post-Gove era” and the Manic Street Preachers-referencing “If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next: ‘£9k fees now insufficient’, says sector”. Rankings editor Phil Baty (@Phil_Baty) tweeted that Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce might make an appropriate title for a “complete guide to free speech on campus”.

Finally, Mr Hillman himself (@NickHillman) revealed what could have been an alternative name for the report on fees, nominating It’s Yer Money I’m After Baby by The Wonder Stuff as an apt title for a future higher education report. Certainly beats the overused “Universities Challenged” relied on by many a thinktank.

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