Magazine article Times Higher Education

Kick Stress into Touch!

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Kick Stress into Touch!

Article excerpt

"It's all a question of mind over matter."

That was how Louise Bimpson, our Corporate Director of Human Resources, introduced the range of events organised by her department to mark the arrival this week of the 17th National Stress Awareness Day.

She told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that she very much hoped all members of academic staff who felt any degree of stress, whether this took the form of recurrent anxiety attacks, deep depressive moods swings or persistent plans for self-slaughter, would take advantage of one or other of the exciting "stress-busting" opportunities her department had made available.

Academics who felt bowed down by research demands might, for example, benefit from the de-stressing aromatherapy course. "Frankly," said Ms Bimpson, "nothing helps to take one's mind off the next research excellence framework more than a good snort of geranium oil."

However, in extreme cases of "pathogenic stress" where members of staff suffered from the irrational idea that they were working in a 19th-century match factory rather than a university, she recommended a solution she had "borrowed" from the University of Sheffield, where staff are being invited to play with Lego bricks at lunchtime. As the Sheffield invitation insists, "Not only is it a fun way to get spend [sic] your lunch hour, it can also help to relieve stress, improve your brain function, and boost your creativity."

Did Ms Bimpson have a final National Stress Awareness Day message for academic staff?

"Indeed. Over the years, as the science of the HR manager has superseded the folk wisdom of the personnel officer, it has become increasingly recognised that anyone who feels undue stress at work can now find solace in the news that they have no one to blame but themselves."

Smells like first class

Our Head of Mark Adjustment, Dr K. T. Rounding Upwards, has welcomed the Higher Education Funding Council for England's proposal to introduce training for external examiners. Such training, said Dr Upwards, would promote "consistency of practice" by introducing all external examiners to the following key aspects of their role:

Nods and winks: The technical term for the interactional procedures by which a head of department indicates his or her subjective marking preferences

Hidden depths: An introduction to the manner in which additional first-class degrees can be generated by the unexpected "discovery" of "signs of excellence" in otherwise thoroughly mediocre papers

Creative writing: A short course on the range of literary devices (pleonasms, circumlocutions, confabulations) that are required to produce a highly satisfactory external examiner's report on a distinctly third-rate department

Backslapping: A brief guide to the etiquette of the external examiner's dinner. …

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