Thursday, 13 March 2008


"I learning, Snedders!"
"You are learning what, Vice Chancellor?"
"No no no Smedlers, i-learning, like i-pod and i-tunes. Electronic learning using computers."
"What does that entail, Vice Chancellor?"
"Well we have invested in the latest i-learning package "ChalkboardView" which will be rolled out across all faculties. Within a year all modules will have mandatory i-learning content of 20 percent"
"Oh yes vice chancellor I heard about that in the common room from Professor Tikemov from Mathematics. He said that ChalkboardView was useless to them because it could not handle equations as answers to on-line tests. Apparently there is a free open source package that many of the other universities are using that is much better".
"But, Smedling, the people from ChalkBoardView made the most competitive bid for the contract!"
"Perhaps the free software didn't need to make a bid as it is, well FREE".
"I can't help that Snodders, we have financial procedures for tendering as you well know."
"Yes Vice Chancellor, we also have procedures for registering interests. The i-learning company did pay for a very nice trip to the US."
"That was a valuable fact-finding trip! In any case this i-learning initiative will transform content delivery at Funcaster."
"How is that Vice Chancellor?"
"Well the content will be delivered to their computer desktop, instead of the traditional lecture theatre"
"So, Vice Chancellor, can I just clarify, is it the computers that are doing the learning or the students?"
"Oh don't be such a Luddite, Smeddler. Can't you see the advantages? With module content on the computer we can roll out franchised distance learning materials to the lucrative eastern market!"
"You mean we will be teaching students as far as Margate?"
"There's no need to be facetious Sniddling, I mean the Far East, Hong Kong, Taiwan. But more importantly it will save staff time. And that means they can spend more time writing grant applications. Now I had our media people make a press release. Let see now I have an email this morning that highlights our press coverage this week. Lets see what impact we have had..."
"Look at this Vice Chancellor, Prof Tikemov seems to have made a big splash.."
Financial Times... Sergei Tikemov, from Funcaster University, addressed an invited audience of 200 from the International Society of Electronic Commerce and Banking at Hong Kong University yesterday. He held them with rapt attention as he explained how his work on "Elliptic Curves over Finite Fields in Cryptography" is set to revolutionise secure transactions in e-commerce....
"Look, Vice Chancellor, the University of Hong Kong have uploaded a video of the lecture on You-Tube!"
"What's he doing Sneddton?"
"He is explaining his equations on a blackboard, Vice Chancellor. A real one".

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

2020 Vision

"Smeders I want you to look at this!"

" 'Funcaster: 2020 vision' are we opening and optometery department
Vice Chancellor?"

"No no no Smedly this is the VISION for the future of The University
of Funcaster! I plan to usher in a Golden Age in which Funcaster is
ranked among the best Universities in the country, in the World"

I mentally switched to a scene from a Bond film in which a megalomaniac
villain plots world domination while stroking a Persian cat. I was just
getting to the bit where he says "this organization does not tolerate failure"
and I disappear down a trap door in to a tank of hungry sharks when I found
my self back in the room with No 1 still explaining his fiendish plan.

"We will recruit five Nobel Prize winners, dozens of Highly Cited authors,
our scientists' papers will be so prolific that Nature will practically be their blog.
We will shoot up the Shanghai Mah Jong League Table of World Universities
like a rocket! "

"But Vice Chancellor, how are we going to pay for it?"

"I knew you would ask that Smudley, always watching the bottom line!
Of course in RAE terms in the long run it will pay for itself, but in the short term
I have prepared a fully costed plan in which we dispose of some of the University's
surplus real estate to be developed as trendy urban flats, we milk the oil industry
of their surplus profits in exchange for promising to solve all their difficult oil
extraction problems and hire a fund raiser to charm our alumni out of some of that
money they have been making as chanting accountants and merchant bankers."

"I see Vice Chancellor. And you are going to do all that by twenty past eight
this evening?"

Posher Participation

The Vice Chancellor called me in to his office

"Smeders I want a word with you about your 'widening participation' scheme.."
He had clearly had one of his 'ideas' again. I cringed. I had put a lot of effort in to my "WP"
scheme. Especially that publicity stunt centred on a lad from a run down estate had found a
prospectus in the skip an applied on the off chance to our urban planning degree.

"You see the problem Smedders is that we have been putting all our effort in the wrong direction!"

"Really Vice Chancellor?"

"Yes you've been working hard to recruit students from lowly backgrounds an elevate their expectations..."

"And now you want us to lower them, Vice Chancellor?" I hazard.

"No no no Smethers. We need to get more posh students Smethers. Toffs! Public School kids! Landed aristocracy.."

That's it  he has finally gone barking mad. What had happened to him over the Christmas break?

"I was talking to my friend Sir Henry Funkington", he stiffend and almost stood to attention

"Master of Saint Swithens College Oxford"

Oh dear....

"and he was saying that they still have far too many posh students. Try as they might the upper
class blighters just keep getting the grades and he can't help but let them in. So I thought..."
Ah his epiphany....

"..that the only solution is for us to recruit more from the Public School sector to allow them to
take more from bogstandard comprehensives..."

"And how do you suggest we do that Vice Chancellor?" (humour him)

"I don't know Smithers, you are the Registrar. Get some of your Senior Management Team together
and do some storm braining. Come up with some new initiatives. Once we get some posh kids with
high aspirations in it will elevate the whole tone, our students will aspire to higher aims. Don't
you see, it will be a virtuous circle... a positive feed back system"

Oh no he must have been drinking with the mathematicians again 'positive feedback system' my foot.
Last time they got him drunk they plied him with their chaotic dynamical systems, they had
virtually convinced him to fund an expedition to the Amazon to capture some dangerous butterfly
that was going to flap its wing and cause a hurricane in Japan before they told him they were
pulling his leg.  I can't imagine how they still managed to get him to agree to that splendid new
maths building. I expect they have some very damning evidence of misbehaviour. After all they do
say he put the Vice back in Chancellor.  Anyway at least I managed to stop them moving their
disgusting dusty old blackboards in to our shinny new building. You should have seen their faces
when they ended up in the skip. "Sir Horace Ram enumerated his modulii space of Ram-Shep extension
on that very board...." or some such nonsense. Not only did I have them replaced by the very
latest multimedia audiovisual display boards but I had them paid for out of the maths budget.
One to me. "Nil point" to the Mathemafia! Oh dear I seem to have drifted off, what was the VC

"So Smitters give me some concrete proposals.."

"Well Sir maybe we could encourage the students to form a Grouse Shooting Society..."

"Excellent, better find a way to close down that Kinder Scout Tresspass re-enactment society
quietly though.."

"And we could lease some land on campus to the Range Rover franchise..."

I can't believe he is going for this..

"And the campus shops Vice Chancellor, less Nike and more Burburry. The coats obviously Sir, like
the Queen's. Not the hats"

"Quite right Snedders. More Haves and less Chavs"

("fewer" Chavs surely vice chancellor)

"Ears" I say in my best Duke of Edinburgh voice, but the irony is lost." One could adopt RP as
the University's official dialect"

"And then when we have more rich and influential students, who will meet other rich and
influential students and become better connected, leading to more wealth creation and  prosperous

I think I can see where this is going....

"who will support their alma mater with generous endowments and donations, and move in the
corridors of power supporting our cause and the University of Funcaster will prosper"

The VC seemed to be staring in to middle distance as if admiring Funcaster's concrete towers
transformed in to a city of gleaming spires and golden domes.

"And then Snodders we will really be in a position to give a leg up to the underclasses".

I wish my name was 'Darling' then he wouldn't try to call me by my surname. Anyway time now to
steer him gently away from this dangerous plan

"But Vice Chancellor what about our commitment to Equal Opportunities?"

"It is Equal Opportunities Snethers. Don't you see. The Upper Classes are under represented at
Funcaster. Dash it we are discriminating against them"..

I hear a grinding noise and imagine it to be our egalitarian founding fathers turning in their
graves, but it is the door knob turning and in comes the VC's secretary with a tea tray.

"Tea and Biscuits Vice Chancellor?"

"No." says the VC "let us eat cake". 

About Me

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Adam Upwrite is Professor of Creative Accounting at the University of Middle England. His Registrar's Diary is about a fictional registrar and an equally fictional English university.