Quinquennial Review

Alison looked at her watch and sighed. She picked up the lever-arch file  and left the office. Sally was heading in the same direction and they fell into step.

“I can’t believe it’s only five years since we last did this.” offered Sally.

“No, me neither. Well, I suppose it’s only four, really. The review isn’t due till next academic year.”

“So why are we starting now?”

Alison smiled. “That’s how long it takes, Sal. Strategic approval, development plan, documentation, external panel, prospectus update, timetabling. You probably only had to get involved with the module reviews last time. There’s quite a bit more needed for the paperwork.”

“Are we going to make that many changes?”

“Probably not.”

“Does it really take that long? How?”

Alison simply shrugged.

They continued in silence.

In Geoff’s office, Phil was already sitting at the small round table. Alison and Sally sat down next to him. Geoff was still at his desk. He lifted his head.

“Hi, folks. Just waiting for, er,” he looked down at his notebook, “er, Jay, and then we’ll get started. Exciting times, eh? Course review?”  He grinned at them.

Alison was the only one to grin back. Sally lost a little more colour from her face. It would have been difficult for Phil to look more disdainful. Geoff had turned back to his computer without waiting for a reply.

“Who’s Jay?” Sally whispered to Alison.

“No idea. Someone from the Quality Office?”

Geoff looked up again. “The Quality Office! I’d forgotten about them. I haven’t invited them. Bugger. We’ll have to do that next time.”

Alison shook her head. “I wonder if they can send someone up? There are bound to be differences in procedures since last time we did this. We could end up wasting a lot of time.”

Phil snorted. “It was only four years ago. They work on a glacial time scale. It’ll be exactly the same.”

Geoff sighed. “You might think so, Phil, but Alison’s probably right. The forms will all be different, and maybe the process, too. I suppose it’s worth giving them a call. Although I suppose I’ll get an earful. Who’s our contact again? I don’t want to confess to Jean that we forgot to invite them.”

Alison nodded in assent, and grimaced. “No, I wouldn’t tell Jean, either. It’s Priya Balan.”

He checked the online directory and picked up the phone.


“It’s Geoff Sanders, Head of Biology.”

“Fine, thank you. And you?”

“Very good. Priya, as you know, the biology courses are up for review, and we’ve decided to have a quick, er, impromptu, meeting about the process. I don’t suppose you’re free for an hour now, are you?”

Geoff winced and leaned his body unconsciously away from the receiver, although it was still clamped to his ear.

“Of course I realise how busy you are. We just thought we’d benefit from some of your input on the processes. We’re at very early stages, so I didn’t think to ask you earlier.”

“Not to worry. Shall we make an appointment, then?”

“OK. I’ll see what my colleagues can do.” Geoff jotted something down on his notepad.

“Thanks, Priya. Sorry to have disturbed you. Bye.”

He looked at the others. “She can’t make it. She’s suggested a date in a couple of weeks. Should be all right, shouldn’t it?”

“As long as it doesn’t clash with exam boards.” Sally pointed out.

“OK, I’ll have to check. I’ll send it round to your Outlook calendars.”

They nodded.

There was a timid knock. They looked up to see one of their second year students hovering in the doorway. They all stared at him.

Geoff was impatient. “What can I do for you? I’ve got a meeting now, but if you want to make an appointment…”

Jay looked worried. “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you said to come at ten o’clock.”

Geoff looked blank.

“About the course development? I’m, like, the second year rep?”

Light dawned on Geoff. “Of course. Sorry. Just had a bit of confusion over procedures. Come and sit down, er” he checked his notebook again, “er, Jay.”

He got up himself, picking up a huge folder of papers, and ushered Jay over to the table.

“Great. We’re all here. I’d offer you a coffee, but perhaps we’d better get on.”

Phil rolled his eyes.

“Now, I think we all know each other.”


Phil cleared his throat. “We do all know each other, Geoff, but charming though it is to see Jay here, especially as I’ve just marked his exam paper –“

Jay looked as though he’d managed to forget such an item had ever existed, and had been only too pleased to remain in that state.

“ – I’m just wondering whether I’m at the right meeting. I thought we were here to discuss the course review? Have I got it wrong? Is this meeting something to do with students, instead?”

They all looked expectantly at Geoff.

He managed what could only be described as a hearty chuckle. “Ha, ha. Phil. Are you saying that courses have nothing to do with students, then?” He rattled this off smoothly. Possibly it was a rejoinder he’d received himself in response to a similar question.

Alison and Sally smirked, although Phil had probably only voiced their own thoughts.

Geoff continued. “No, Phil. One of the new elements of the quinquennial review procedure is going to be better student engagement in the process. So Jay is here. To help us. And we’re very grateful to him, giving up his time for us like this. Especially as he won’t be here when the new course starts. Very altruistic.”

‘Rabbit in the headlights’ was probably the best description of Jay’s expression.

Phil rolled his eyes again. “I think I need coffee, Geoff. Shall I make it?”

“Be my guest, Phil.” Geoff waved over at the kettle. “Meanwhile, I’ll start giving out some of this paperwork.” He opened the huge folder.

To be continued.

See also Them and Us.