Trial by fire for VCs? a response to ( @timeshighered )

Trial by fire will test our mettle, insist VCs. (The Times Higher, 30th June 2011) – We couldn’t read a headline like that without responding suitably, and with a respectful hat tip to Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland and Edward Woodward and all others involved in one of the greatest cult films ever.


[Final Scene: After days trying to track down data on the application rate amongst students with A-levels predicted at AAB or above, the VICE-CHANCELLOR enters the Great Hall, where the REGISTRAR is preparing for the graduation ceremony. University staff and students in bizarre costumes throng the Hall]

REGISTRAR: The game is over.  

VICE-CHANCELLOR: Game? What game?  

R: The game of the hunted leading the hunter.

You came here to find new students with AAB or above at A-level , but it is we who have found you and brought you here, and controlled your every thought and action since you were appointed.

Principally, we persuaded you to think that these students were being held as a sacrifice because applications failed last year.

VC: I know applications failed. I saw the matriculation photograph.

R: Oh, yes. They failed, all right, disastrously so… for the first time since we gained degree-awarding powers. The blossom came but the fruit withered and died on the bough. That must not happen again this year.

It is our most earnest belief that the best way of preventing this is to offer to our gods of HEFCE and to the goddess of our marketing strategy is to offer the most acceptable sacrifice that lies in our power.  

Post-graduate teaching assistants are fine, but their acceptability is limited.

An entire academic department is even better, but not nearly as effective as the right kind of manager.

VC: What do you mean, “right kind of manager”?

R: You, Vice Chancellor, are the right kind of manager as our painstaking REF-able researches have revealed. You, uniquely, were the one we needed.

A manager who would come here of his own free will.
A manager who has come here with the power of the Privy Council by representing Senior Management.
A man who would come here without experience.
A man who has come here as a fool.

VC: Get out of my way. 

R: You are the fool, Vice-Chancellor – Punch, one of the great fool-victims of history, for you have accepted the role of king for a day, and who but a fool would do that. But you will be revered and anointed as a king.

You will undergo death and rebirth – resurrection, if you like. The rebirth, sadly, will not be yours, but that of our Faculty of Humanities.

VC: I am a UUK member, and as a UUK member, I hope for the wisdom of the market. And even if you kill me now, it is I who will have been of value to society, not your damned Philosophy course. No matter what you do, you can’t change the fact that I believe in the market eternal, as promised to us by our Lord Browne. 

R: That is good. For believing what you do, we confer upon you a rare gift these days – a market consolidation.

You will not only have experience the market eternal, but you will sit with the bankers among the reviled.

Come. It is time to keep your appointment with The Wicker Man.

VC: (very agitated) Now, wait! Now, all of you, just wait and listen to me. And you can wrap it up any way you like. You are about to commit murder.

Can you not see? There is no public good. There is no education for it’s own sake. Your recruitment failed because your marketing failed. Humanities is not meant to be taught in this institution. It’s against market forces. Don’t you see that killing me is not going to bring back your Faculty?

Registrar, you know it won’t. Go on, man. Tell them. Tell them it won’t.

R: I know it will.

VC: Well, don’t you understand that if your recruitment fails this year, next year you’re going to have to have another blood sacrifice?

And next year, no one less than the Registrar himself will do. If the crops fail, Registrar, next year the University Congregation will kill you on Graduation Day.

R: They will not fail. The sacrifice will be accepted.

[The VICE-CHANCELLOR is led into a Wicker Man, constructed centre-stage and surrounded by garlands in university colours. As the construction is set alight, staff and students commence to sing “Sumer Is Icumen In”]

[Fade to black]

This post represents my personal opinions, and not those of current or former employers, projects, or programmes I am or have been responsible for. This post refers to copyright material for parodic purposes and this thus not available under an open license..

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