Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Points Mean Prizes

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Points Mean Prizes

Article excerpt

"Please don't compare Poppleton with other universities."

That was the vigorous response of Louise Bimpson to suggestions that the Metrics system of Academic Staff Evaluation (MASE) at our university was in any way as "simplistic" as that variously being employed by the universities of Warwick, Queen Mary and Kingston.

Ms Bimpson admitted that all academics at Poppleton were required to obtain a minimum of 15 research points a year for two successive years and an annual minimum of 20 points on student and peer evaluation. These figures were then multiplied by half the age of the academic in question, divided by twice the length of his or her time in service, and finally rounded up to the nearest banana in order to yield a precise RP, or Redundancy Potential, score.

But unlike other universities, Poppleton had "broadened" its metric scheme by adding an ATM - "attitude towards management" - score. This allowed those academics who had fallen down on research and student and peer evaluation to gain marks for degrees of relative acquiescence to innovative cutting-edge management imperatives. Although the scheme was "under constant review", the rewarded behaviours currently included:

Bowing the head5 marks

Doffing the cap 5 marks

Bending the knee5 marks

Touching the forelock5 marks

Kissing the backside10 marks

Ms Bimpson agreed that this system might allow someone with no capacity for research or teaching or administration or walking in a straight line to remain in post merely by virtue of their ostensible obeisance to any old top-down management directive. But she insisted that she knew of no other way in which pro vice-chancellors might be selected.

Inspecting the inspectors

The news that the Quality Assurance Agency may shortly have its functions severely curtailed has been greeted with "some concern" by Doreen Bushell, the Head of Internal Quality Assurance at Poppleton.

Speaking to our reporter Keith Ponting, Ms Bushell said that it seemed "quite unreasonable" to ask private providers to take over the QAA's quality assessment function when no one had conducted a proper examination of the QAA organisation itself.

Ms Bushell therefore proposed that just such a quality examination should take place in the near future. In line with standard QAA practice, the date and time of the inspection would be announced well in advance, the inspectors would be a haphazard bunch of expense-account losers from second-rank universities, and nothing at all would be inspected except a load of hastily assembled semi-duplicitous self-congratulatory paperwork that bore little or no relationship to the actual working of the organisation. …

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