Somewhere in the University of Beestonia Dr. Chewtaar sighed. It was a long and audible sigh directed towards his office ceiling, and it had at its center a less audible, but critical, growl. It had been a funny few months and, between him and his ceiling, Ainsley was feeling a little broke.
The spring term hadn’t felt particularly springy. It was particularly daft calling it the spring term this year anyway, having already finished by the time British Summer Time had started (more potential confusion there…), but mulling over it there didn’t seem to be a particularly good alternative. The ‘grey, cold few months when lots of people are a bit miserable’ term didn’t seem particularly catchy, and certainly didn’t fit into the University of Beestonia branding particularly well. He’d had a Great Aunt called Hilary, he seemed to remember, that was a nice name, and apparently one she’d shared with a French saint …
Reality was returned with a sharp knock on the door. “Sorry to bother you…” for a second Ainsley drifted back to his Great Aunt, he had this vague recollection of her at some odd meal held in honour of an important wedding anniversary of his paternal grandparents, “… could I come and see you some time this week about my coursework?”
Ah the vacation, those long sprawling oceans of free time, which family members and people you meet randomly in shops think you have off because you work in an educational establishment. If only. In fact having them off isn’t the goal, having them free would be good enough. Free to think (?!), create and push back those intellectual boundaries one increment at a time.
“No worries, let me just check my diary,” Ainsley smiled back. In his more cynical moments he remembered that the Office for Students was drilling down into its spreadsheets, making sure the curvature of his smile was above the minimum standard required, but most of the time he enjoyed teaching the students that came each year to the University of Beestonia. They were generally nice kids and kept him on his toes. If all he’d had to do was help them learn and push an occasional boundary a little bit closer to its next increment the term would have been a lot more springier.
I didn’t get much sleep…
On the first day of Christmas my Uni sent to me: A nine grand tuition fee
(Imagine starting out with a 9 grand tuition fee…
…oh…and technically of course it’s the government that means we have the fees, but it doesn’t scan as well.)
But less of that grumpy stuff, ’tis the season to be jolly, so forthwith, a carol of our times:
On the twelfth day of Christmas my Uni sent to me:
Twelve student e-mails
Eleven impact pathways
Ten masters projects
Nine grant rejections
Eight Moodle mandates
Seven 4 star papers
Six weekends marking
Project xxxxxxxxxxxxx *
Three 9 a.ms
Two peer reviews
and a nine grand tuition fee.
Wishing you all an admin free Christmas and a grant filled New Year.
* feel free to include a 2 syllable project of your choice here.
September. Blimy it’s come round quick again.
The new academic year will just about be on us by the time we go to print and as I write there’s a clear shift in gear around the university as staff begin to fill their diaries with teaching commitments for the coming year. The summer as ever has flown by and as we look towards the new term we can also reflect on goals for the summer fulfilled, or not. It’s a cliché in academia for a reason, back in June the summer vacation always seems like a wonderful clear sunny space for pushing back global research agendas, only for September to arrive and well… it was sunny for at least one or two days…
All our time is becoming more squeezed and in our industry this is no different, there’s been some interesting media talk over the summer about 2 year degrees, and market forces not working, or at least not how government envisaged they would work, which maybe isn’t exactly the same thing. Maybe, or hopefully, just silly season talk.
Either way new students will roll into our universities, and into Beeston, over the next few weeks. University is a great opportunity for them and I encourage all students reading this to embrace the opportunities the experience will give you, in terms of training both formal and informal. Enjoy and respect our wonderful town of Beeston and please make the most of our fantastic places to eat, drink and shop.
New academic years also see changes in personnel in many universities, and east of Broadgate the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nottingham Professor Sir David Greenaway will retire at the end of September after serving the University for 30 years, with 20 of those as a member of its Executive Board. That’s quite a stint and we at the Beestonian wish Sir David all the best for his retirement. We also welcome Professor Shearer West who will be the University’s new Vice-Chancellor.
A new year, old and new challenges, the odd glimpse of sunshine… bring it on!
Curious minds will be amazed and inspired by Wonder 2017
Have you ever wondered what Mars looks like, what your skin’s made of, how planes can fly, why T-rex had tiny arms or how Vikings fought?
It’s now less than a month to go until you can find out at Wonder 2017. On Saturday 17 June 2017 between 11am and 5pm, the University of Nottingham will be throwing open its doors to the local community to uncover and answer the questions you’ve always wondered about. The free event, formerly known as May Fest, held at University Park, gives curious minds the chance to try a huge variety of fun and hands-on activities.
Visitors are invited to explore the University’s ground-breaking research and world-class teaching first-hand by taking part in a vast array of exciting family-friendly activities, split into zones and by age range to ensure they get the most out of their day.
We’d encourage anyone interested to come and join us for what promises to be a stimulating and fun-filled day
Debbie Henthorn, Deputy Director of Campaign and Alumni Relations, and a team from across the University are organising Wonder.
She said: “We are delighted to be welcoming the community back into the University of Nottingham this June, for our incredible brand new event.
“We care deeply about the University’s connection to the community and appreciate how many local people, businesses and partners in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire are involved in making what we do at the University possible. What better way to showcase the contributions that the University makes to education, research and business than opening up the campus to our community who are such an important part of our success.
“We will bring children and grown-ups from all backgrounds together at University Park, for a fantastic free day out with some very exciting activities, experiments and demonstrations. We’d encourage anyone interested to come and join us for what promises to be a stimulating and fun-filled day.”
What makes you wide-eyed with wonder?
Events and activities throughout the day will include:
- See Vikings battle Anglo-Saxons in fearsome re-enactments.
- Solve clues on the Raiders of the Lost Park treasure hunt around Highfields.
- Watch extreme experiments, which burn, cut, smash and crush materials.
- Discover how your body works with hands-on activities.
- Learn new skills with the University’s futsal team.
- Get crafty and help create our mini sculpture park.
- Wow at our race-winning electronic motorbike.
A full list of all the Wonder activities is now available to explore on the website, along with a new app which will go live in early June, to guide visitors around University Park Campus to the many exciting activities on offer throughout the day. Users of the app can collect points on their journey and pick up rewards along the way.
The spires at the University of Beestonia are dreaming; and the dreams are nightmares…
OK, so that’s over-egging it a little bit, but it’s probably fair to say no one’s sleeping particularly soundly, there’s something out there causing a fair degree* of restlessness.
Our brightest and best minds are searching for the cause of this unease, but if you read around there’s much being written about the battle for the soul of our universities at the moment.
T’internet (2017) defines the prefixes super- and para- as something beyond, or apart from, amongst other possible meanings, so when we add these to words like natural or normal what are we discussing?
During my time working in universities I’m not sure that a natural or normal state of things has actually ever existed, so defining what is beyond those is also a little tricky. Time does not stand still, things do change, some we can influence and some we can not, but, and before I turn completely into Baz Luhrmann talking about sunscreen, recently those changes are pushing – probably wrong tense – have pushed universities into a place where logic does appear, at least at times, otherworldly.
When is the tipping point between para- and new-, is it definable?
In our new normal, and that’s a strange term too, given this issue’s focus on the para-normal, and I’ll come back to my point, but if para-normal is some kind of inexplicable parallel type of universe, how long do conditions have to change for before they become the new normal? When is the tipping point between para- and new-, is it definable? I’d be interested to know if anyone’s worked on this…
Back to a point, in our new normal we are too often torn between which policy we are meant to drive for, student fees have been increased again recently in our current, to me at least bizarre, political reality, our democratic system means we will leave the group of nations which provide a substantial amount of our research funding… the list goes on.
Whether these things are normal, or beyond it, I’m not sure but in the mean time mind the seagulls and sleep well my friends…
*oh look, unintentional HE pun (Lord B would be proud, or horrified…)
Although we’ve had little chance to share it with you over the last 18 months (our consultants suggested an Overstreet and Schlitz approach to communications recently) it’s been a busy time at the University of Beestonia.
It’s a challenging time for the industry and it’s important we are correctly positioned to make the most of the opportunities on the horizon as we move forward. We’ve therefore been working hard to ensure The University of Beestonia can continue to lead both nationally and internationally in the coming decade.
Re-imagining and re-imaging not only what our University is but what it should be in the 21st century is a real challenge. We are now constrained by REF, TEF, increasing internationalisation, BREXIT, white papers asking for more with less… to name but a few. This means there is no one clear path and our institutional and individual ability to understand wtf is going on has been stretched to and beyond breaking point.
We are not the only institution harmed by the post-truth (i.e. bullshit) narrative and the 2016 fad for demonising the expert. However, what this trend has highlighted is that saying nothing at all does not say it best (we sacked those consultants, despite any evidence to the contrary in these short paragraphs). We need to say it more, say it better, say it louder and say it backed up with facts (pre-post-truth) and years of experience in what we are talking about. Once we’ve worked out what it is we’ll let you know, but fear not, we have lots of experts working on it.
Here at the University of Beestonia we aim to spend 2017 looking for the solutions and not pointing out more of the problems (it might be another quiet year from us!). We’d love to hear from you about what you want from your university so please do get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll read your ideas before ignoring them :p