Exclusive Second Interview with VC of Failing University of Weeengland: Part 2

Jean Tully, Education Correspondent for the New Times, continues her exclusive interview with Professor Woodley, VC of the failing University of Weeengland.

“Professor Woodley, welcome back. I trust all is going well at work?”

“Indeed Jean.”

“Yesterday we explored the sexual conduct of senior managers, as well as the corruption which some claim is endemic to the University.”

“Spurious claims Jean. All of them spurious.”

“Although you did not directly refute claims that at least three senior managers were having sex with  a member, or members, of the panel responsible for their appointment?”

“Jean, I would prefer not talk about sex in public. It gives me the willies. Sorry, would you delete that line. It is irrelevant to the issue at hand – the future of our great University. And Jean please choose your words more carefully. Member connotes far too much in this context. Thank you.”

“Ok Professor. What is your salary?”

“Around £200 000.”

“Actually Professor it is £282 000 if your pension is included. I have not added in your car, nor those other ‘unspecified benefits’ which last year added up to £16 282. Your recent pay increase was 7.7%, on top of 6.2% last year, that is after inflation. Your staff have all had average pay cuts of 7.4% over the past three years, once inflation is taken into account. Is this fair?”

“Jean, have you read Plato’s Republic? Yes, of course, you strike me as just the type. Well do you know the lesson of that great book? No…it is simple, a lesson for all to heed. Socrates knew the right answers. Those liberal academics, they claim the Republic is a model for democratic argument. Rubbish. Only one man relentlessly pursue the truth, going where no men had been before. Socrates. And you know what Jean. They killed him for it. Now, I’m not saying I am Socrates, but all of this public abuse, the condoms dropped through my letterbox after our last interview, the demands that I step down, the hysterical response of the union to my every word… The thing is I know the answers Jean. That is why I do the job I do. That is why I receive a reasonable salary. That is why the pay review panel I appointed recommends substantial pay increases year on year. The Republic is about leadership, about those naturally gifted individuals tasked with seeing through the bullshit, I mean the weak arguments… individuals who sacrifice their very freedom to lead others into the new world. I model myself on David Eastwood, Clit as he is known in the business, Clint, I mean Clint. A brave man, a man of virtue. A man who holds a barrel to the future”

“Yet during your stewardship applications have fallen, student satisfaction is at an all time low, you are in dispute with the local trade union branch, and staff will next week debate a vote of no confidence in your leadership.”

“As I said Jean, not everyone can see the righteous path. The union…well that is run by a bunch of losers, academics who once had some promise and who now fight out of resentment for the succesful ones like myself. The executive committee is made up of ageing Trotskyists and their admiring acolytes. Infantile rabbits, living in the pre-1989 Beatrix Potter era, reproducing too much. If they had their way Weeengland would be a commune run by flunky vegetarians, pacifist gall bladders and militant communists. Don’t worry. Their time is nigh.”

“Their time is nigh? Yes I have heard rumours about a major restructuring of academic provision,? You also intend to outsource all services? You are not suggesting that you will deliberately target union members?”

“Never Jean. Our preferred private partner does not recognise unions. It is an international company, not subject to the same unnecessary regulation.  It is far more efficient, a streamlined operation, which lowers costs. An ideal, nubile, model for HE provision.”

“Yes, Capital Academicians, currently the subject of nine separate investigations in the US for insider dealing, and other corrupt practices including the rewarding of bonuses, paybacks and jobs to those who had previously hired them. Under the table deals. The revolving door of private and public. How will you benefit from this cosy arrangement?”

“Any benefit will be legal.”

“Legal, but not ethical perhaps?”

“Jean let’s not quibble over mere words. Far more important. I have an announcement to make, an exclusive as my gift to you. Doubtless this will cause a spike in your sales, and bring the advertisers rushing in. We currently have six Faculties. Within six months there will be four Faculties. The University will save £3.2 million pounds as a consequence of this restructuring, every year that is Jean, every year. If you consider the savings to be made from the 100 million pound tender for all service provision to Capital A then Weeengland will have a net operating profit in 2012/13 of £4 million pounds… despite failing to meet recruitment targets thanks to our previous Head of Registry. All of this, Jean, under my careful stewardship. A remarkable achievement in a year when student fees were increased to £9000.”

“So the tender is going ahead at the same time as the Faculty restructures? I presume the unions have been consulted?  Will any serving or recently retired staff from Weeengland benefit?”

“Jean you have your exclusive. Today the plans laid in the past three years can finally hatch. If I had my way we would float Universities on the stock exchange, just like football clubs. We considered hiring David Beckham as our ambassador. Unfortunately he was busy.”

“There will be no job losses?”

“We will be slimming down by 25%. It will make Weeengland healthier. Like weight watchers. It will separate the wheat from the chaff. And don’t forget that we are to appoint 12 new Super Professors, three in each Faculty. These will be men of the, apologies, men and women of the highest esteem, research leaders who will redraw the map of research excellence in the UK.”

“Do you have any names we can publish today?”

“Well Jean, we did approach Anthony Grayling, but even an offer of £200 000 could not persuade him to betray his lovechild, the New College in the Humanities. A great pity, but not everyone knows what is best for them. And Gayatri Spivak… I was not prepared to pay more than my salary for a mere Professor, especially not one of those deconstructionists. I prefer reconstruction myself. We have advertised the Professorships, and we are hopeful that Stephen Hawking and Adam Riess -his wonderful work on distant supernovas largely unrecognised you know – will consider our recent approaches. There is also the rising star of television journalism Mark Urban. A colleague suggested Maria Sharapova for Russian studies, an idea I was rather partial to, but Jonathan, you know mad Jonathan, he dissuaded me.”

“Professor thank you for your time. I know you have to rush off to an exclusive members only meeting, for leaders of Regional business at the Ritz. Would you mind if we did this one more time? Unfortunately there is more to talk about.”

“For you my dear, anything. Anything at all. Never forget what I taught you about Plato today Jean. I was once a teacher you know. That t-shirt Jean, it does highlight your best assets you know. Goodbye now. “

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