Monday, 8 April 2013


Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

When I got to the cafeteria this morning today I found the place in uproar with a whole range of rumours swirling around. Some were just about things happening here at USE but there was also one more general HEFCE related issue.

Gus, Richard, Jack, Sian and Bob Bunn were all there, with several people from other departments joining in the frantic discussion. The biggest local issue was the rumour that the university is to close the Physics Department and make all the academic staff redundant. The unions had been given no warning of this and John Hansen, the Business School union rep, was fuming.

But on top of this there were several other rumours in the air. Departmental timetablers had been told that for the next academic year, in addition to evening sessions, they might have to schedule classes on Saturdays and possibly even Sundays.

Then we heard that in 2016 there was a plan to make some undergraduate courses into two year degrees by squeezing in a "fourth term" during the summer months.

As if that wasn't enough some people had heard that all staff would be required to attend an "Enterprise Awareness Workshop" to ensure that we would be able to provide support and encouragement to students who want to set up their own businesses.

Another rumour concerned the replacement of the Campus Card that we use to swipe our way into university buildings with a new card which would contain an RFID chip so that staff whereabouts could be tracked at all times.

And lastly there was the story that HEFCE plans to introduce a supermarket style "traffic light" system for universities and degree programmes to make it easier for potential students and their parents to see where there were good quality courses, NSS scores, support services and employment prospects. Green (good) would indicate that the university or course was rated in the top 20%, amber (satisfactory) would apply to the next 40% while red (poor) would indicate a bottom 40% rating.

When the turmoil had subsided and people from other departments had left I heard Bob Bunn quietly say to Gus that he should not get too exited as he (Bob) had personally started several of these rumours himself, just to see whether they would be believed and how quickly they would spread.

Gus smiled but told Bob that he really had to be careful making up radical ideas even only in fun. Some people higher up in the university might latch on to them and put them into practice. He was reminded of the 1980s TV series "A Very Peculiar Practice" by Andrew Davies, set in a university health centre. Whenever the university writer in residence came up with an off the wall idea it subsequently actually came to pass!

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