Reposted from earlier in the year: The Bunker

Bob looked up from his screen and stretched his arms out. It was eight o’clock in the morning, and he’d been sitting there for an hour and a half already. He smiled over at Sheila, who was sitting on the other side of the double desk. She didn’t notice. She was writing in her notebook.

They were sitting in a tiny room with no windows. There was just about space for the two desks pushed together, two filing cabinets, and a small occasional table for the kettle and two mugs. It wasn’t the most promising location for the great white hope of Burston Central University. But Bob thought it was fitting. At the moment, only he and Sheila were working on the project. They didn’t need any more space, and as an ex-forensic accountant, he approved of the parsimony being shown at this stage in the project. Later on they’d need to demonstrate their financial backing, and they had a guarantee of half a million pounds of investment from the VC’s special projects fund.

Sheila looked up. “Everything alright?”

“Yes, boss. Just thinking about resource allocation for the refurbishments.”  He tugged on an imaginary forelock. They both smiled.

“I’m just trying to get this recruitment strategy thought through.” Sheila said. “We’re going to have to advertise vacancies fairly soon, or we won’t be able to get admissions going in time. But once we do that, the whole thing’s going to go public.”

Bob grimaced. The plan to set up the new University College of North Burston was pretty well developed, but the timings they were working to were all disrupted by the secrecy of the project.

The door handle was pressed down and there was a thud outside. They both started. It was pretty quiet in the basement and nobody but them ever usually came into the office. They held meetings off-site, or up in the Vice Chancellor’s suite. The door burst open.

“Bloody hell, what’s wrong with that door?” Bill Noakes was in the room, breathing heavily.

“It sticks, Vice Chancellor.”

“So I see. Bloody hell, you want to get that seen to.”

“We’re sort of used to it.” Sheila was usually cool around the VC. She didn’t like him much, and unlike Bob, she wasn’t intimidated by him. “What a pleasant surprise, Vice Chancellor. We don’t usually see you down here.” Actually, they’d never seen him down there. She was surprised that he knew there was a basement.

“What? Oh, yes.“ The VC looked round, as though he’d mislaid something. He turned slightly and put an arm back out into the corridor. “This is Steve.”  He pulled someone into the room.

It was now rather crowded in the tiny office. Bob and Sheila stood up automatically to greet the new arrival. Steve looked to be in his mid-thirties, neatly dressed in an inexpensive suit and a plain tie. He had a small rucksack.

Bob put out his hand. “Bob. Nice to meet you.”

Sheila did likewise. They all turned to the VC expectantly.

“Er, Steve’s going to help you out with the UCNB project. He’ll be working on an international angle.” Bill fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper torn from his notebook. “Franchising, new business model, available to new markets.” he added. He shoved the piece of paper into Bob’s hand.

“Right, better get off, interviewing for the new DVC today, mustn’t be late.” The VC squeezed past Steve and disappeared.  Bob and Sheila looked at Steve.

“I’ll go and find another chair.” Bob put the paper in his pocket and also squeezed past Steve, who hadn’t moved from the doorway, and followed the VC out into the corridor. Bill was already over at the lift, which was still at the basement floor. He gave Bob a slight wave and stepped firmly inside. Bob sighed and headed off in the opposite direction. There were a couple of chairs down by the laundry room. They’d seen better days. He leaned experimentally on the one which looked stronger. It seemed safe enough.

Back in the office, Sheila had got the kettle on and had managed to get Steve to sit down in Bob’s chair.

“Bob, this isn’t Steve. It’s Stefan.”

Bob automatically stuck his hand out again. “Hello, Stefan. Nice to meet you.”

Stefan nodded at him.

Sheila handed Stefan a cup of instant coffee. “Milk? Sugar?”

He shook his head.

Bob wondered if he could speak at all. Although Sheila must have managed to talk to him. He sat down on the new chair and waited.

“Stefan was the manager at Subway, Bob.”

He looked at her blankly.

“You know, the one down Challoner street, down from Cheeky’s. The sandwich place. You know, Subway, the sandwich chain.”

Bob finally understood what kind of subway was being discussed. “I thought it was closing down.”

“Yes, that’s why Stefan is here.”

Stefan took a sip of his coffee, and winced.

Bob felt none the wiser. What was the connection between the University College of North Burston and the manager of a failed sandwich shop? “Oh.” he offered.

Sheila smiled at him. “No, I haven’t a clue either.”

Bob felt relieved. He pulled the VC’s piece of paper out of his pocket. It was headed ‘new international strategy’, in terrible handwriting. There were two columns. One was headed Subway, and underneath, it said:  raw ingredients, recipes, Health and Safety, training manuals, marketing information.

The other column was headed Burston Central. Its column included teaching materials, regulations, and degree certification.

“Any clarification there?” Sheila put her hand out for the piece of paper.

Bob handed it over. Subway. Universities. International. “Not sure. Yes. Maybe. I wonder if the VC is thinking about franchising.”

Stefan nodded vigorously. “Franchising. Yes. Subway is franchise.”

Bob tried to place the accent. Eastern European?

Sheila shrugged. “God knows what it’s all about. But we could do with some help around here. Stefan, do you have a CV?”

“Of course.” Stefan bent over and took a neat folder out of his backpack and passed it to Sheila.

She flicked through it. “Has the Vice Chancellor seen this, Stefan?”

He shook his head. “No. He said no need. Could see my special skills.”

Sheila rolled her eyes. “OK. Did he give you a contract or anything?”

“No, not yet. He said you would sort out.”

“OK. How about a job title? And when did he say you could start?”

“Special Project Assistant. Grade 6. Now.”

Sheila wasn’t sure whether Stefan was a man of few words, or whether his English was limited, or whether he was just feeling out of his depth. Or all three. His CV was actually pretty impressive, if the translation was accurate. First degree in economics from the University of Warsaw, classification A1* – she presumed that was good. Masters in enterprise development, worked as a management consultant to small companies for ten years after graduation. Then it looked as though he’d come to the UK in 2009, and then things got a bit less graduate-like. Waiter, Assistant manager at a series of fast food places, followed by nine months at the local Subway. Not very relevant to a university.

She sighed. What was Bill playing at? She wouldn’t be able to talk to him today, if they were interviewing for Alan’s replacement.

Stefan was looking at her expectantly. She passed the CV over to Bob.

“Stefan. We’ll need to sort out a proper contract for you. And take up some references. There will be a probationary period of, er, three months. During that time, you’ll be working for Bob and me helping us out with our big project, and then we’ll see about this special, er, franchising project. How does that sound?”

Stefan shrugged his shoulders. “Sounds fine. I can start now.”

Sheila looked round the office. “Well, as you can see, we don’t have very much space at the moment. And you’ll need a contract, or you won’t be covered by our insurance. And I’ll need you to sign a confidentiality agreement. So it does need a bit of organisation. Is this contact information current?”

Stefan nodded.

“OK, I’ll get in touch with you tomorrow, with a view to you starting next week. How’s that?”

Stefan shrugged again. “OK.”

“I’ll need to see all of your qualification certificates, and your passport,” she continued.

Stefan took another folder from his rucksack. “All here.”

“Great,” said Sheila. “I’ll just go and copy these, that’ll be one less thing to sort out.”

She took the folder and stood up. “I’ll be about ten minutes. The copier’s on the first floor. Perhaps Bob will make you another coffee while you’re waiting.”

Stefan shook his head. “No thanks.”

Sheila left the office. There was a silence. Bob thought he’d better say something. “So, Stefan. How did you meet the Vice Chancellor?”

“Vice Chancellor?”

“Professor Noakes. The man who brought you down here.”

“Oh, Mester Noakes. He come in for Subs often. We chat sometimes. The other week, I tell him we are closing, and he says he has job for me. So I am here. ”

Bob wasn’t sure what to say. “What do you know about Burston Central University?”

Stefan shrugged. “Not so much. Big university. Many students. Not so good as other one maybe? Less money?”

Bob smiled. “Something like that. Here’s a prospectus.” He passed one over.

“Did you have a specialism when you were a management consultant?” Bob asked.

“Lot of general help for small businesses. Lot of small manufacturers supplying multinationals. Cultural context, western-style costing, accounting. And all that health and safety, ethical business, human resources. You know.”

Bob nodded at him. “Sounds interesting. Do you miss it?”

Stefan shrugged yet again. “Yes, a little. But it’s OK here. Different. “

Bob gave up. “I’m sure you’ll find this project very interesting, given your background. Sure you don’t want another coffee?”

Stefan shook his head. “Is there anything I can do before next week? I like to be busy.”

“I don’t think so. It’s a rather confidential project. I know it doesn’t look like much at the moment.” They both looked rather gloomily round the office.

Sheila came back in. she handed Stefan back his folder of qualifications. “That’s great, Stefan. Impressive qualifications. I’m sure we’re going to enjoy working with you.”

She looked meaningfully at Bob. He stood up. “Yes, just leave us to sort out the paperwork, Stefan, and we’ll look forward to seeing you next week.”

Stefan took the hint. He shook their hands and squeezed past them into the corridor. “I’ll see you to the main entrance.” Bob said. “It’s a bit of a rabbit warren down here.”

Sheila shut the door behind them and sat back down at her desk. There were times when she wondered if the Vice Chancellor was just having a huge joke at their expense. Or someone else’s expense.  She sighed and added Stefan to her ‘to-do’ list. Bill hadn’t told anyone in HR about their project yet, so she couldn’t sort it out with them. She’d have to put Stefan on a consultancy contract to start with. Well, that would cover the probationary period. By then, the company would be incorporated and they’d be able to issue their own contracts. She wondered if Bill had the slightest idea about the nuts and bolts of running a business.

Wading Through Treacle is entirely fictional. You can follow @wadingtreacle on Twitter, or like the Wading Through Treacle page on Facebook to be informed of updates, or click on ‘follow’ at the bottom of this screen to register for updates from Wading Through Treacle. For last year’s advent calendar, see The Unknown Tutor.

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Reposted from earlier in the year: Speed-dating

Bill Noakes is in India. He’s been inspired, and has now started to develop his marvellous internationalisation idea.

Later that day, the tent had been reorganised into rows of tables. Each table had a little flag on it, indicating the non-Indian institution being represented. All of the Gujarati delegates were standing at the entrance to the tent, waiting for a signal. Two chairs were placed on the each side of each table. Bill and Sunny sat together. Sunny was giving Bill a last minute briefing.

“So, we’re agreed that we want to look for institutions who are interested in a mixed relationship.”

Bill looked at her helplessly. “Mixed relationship? Is that something to do with our diversity policy?”

Sunita sighed. “Vice Chancellor. You know, we discussed it on the plane. A mixed relationship is one where we have a range of joint activities. Some courses which are partly taught in India and then students come to us for the final year. Some exchanges, where our students go to India and some of their students come to us. Some shared staff development.”

Bill nodded absently. It sounded routine.

Sunny finished her list. “No simple accreditation deals, remember the University of Wales, but some courses which are franchised.”

Bill tuned back in. “Franchising?” How did she know about his ideas?

Sunny raised her eyebrows. “Yes, Vice Chancellor. When the partner institution runs our courses, exactly as we do. OK, here we go.”

Bill didn’t have time to ask her any more. A bell rang, and the Indian delegates surged forward. They spread out quickly and selected tables. Two people sat down at the Burston Central table, proffering business cards. Bill took one. It was in Hindi.  “Er, thanks, Dr, Professor, Sir….”

“Professor Mumtasa Singh, Ahmedabad All-India Institute for Legal Studies.” Professor Singh took the business card back, turned it over, and passed it back to Bill. “It’s in English on that side. This is my colleague, Dr Mehta. And you’re from Burston Central University? I know Burston well. I spent two years at the University of Burston, doing my Masters. ”

Bill had recovered. He put out his hand. “Yes, Professor Bill Noakes, Vice Chancellor. And this is Sunita Hundal, Head of International Partnerships.”

Sunita touched her hands together and murmured “Namastay, Professor Singh. Dr Mehta.”. She handed their business cards over to their guests. “We don’t have very long, do we? What kinds of international collaborations might interest you at the AII Legal Studies? We’re very keen to focus on franchising arrangements. Our Law, Business and Accountancy programmes are proving popular, and we can guarantee Professional Body accreditation with them, which is recognised by the Indian government.”

Bill stared at her. She’d got the wrong end of the stick. He didn’t want to partner with existing institutions. He wanted to set up a whole chain of mini-Burstons. Ninja Burstons, sharing the principles of lean delivery and value for money across the sub-continent. They needed to be staffed by fresh teams, tutors who weren’t obsessed with research, or jaded by institutional politics. This was going to be a brave new world. There would be no room for established hierarchies in his vision.

Professor Singh was quizzing Sunita in some detail. Dr Mehta was taking notes. The bell rang again. “Chello” said Professor Singh. They stood up. “Thank you, Ms Hundal. Professor Noakes.” He shook hands with Sunny and nodded to Bill, and they moved along to the next table.

“Is everything alright, Vice Chancellor?” Sunny asked. “Did you need me to update you on anything?”

Bill looked at her. “I was just wondering if this franchising to other institutions was the right way for us to go.”

Sunny’s jaw dropped. “It’s what the International Partnerships committee agreed at its last meeting. I think you sent your apologies. But I went over it with you on the plane.”

Before they could discuss it any further, another pair of academics sat down in front of them, holding out business cards. This time, Bill was ready. “Professor Noakes, Burston Central. We’re pretty booked up now, so we probably won’t be looking at new partnerships. But was there anything special you wanted to ask us about?”

Sunny forced a smile. “Just his little joke, gentlemen. You know, keeping the session fresh, so you remember us!”

The two men smiled weakly. “Ah, the famous British sense of humour. Ha, ha.”

Sunny continued. “We’re very interested in finding out more about your institution and the possibility of partnerships, aren’t we, Vice Chancellor?” She glared at him. She would have like to kick him discreetly, but she didn’t quite dare. Bill said nothing.

“Vice Chancellor, you look a little pale. Do you perhaps need to get some refreshment, while I talk to our esteemed colleagues for a moment? Perhaps catch up on your urgent messages?”

Bill narrowed his eyes. He knew an operator when he saw one in action. Not bad, actually, although she did need to remember that he was the VC and he could make life very uncomfortable.

Sunny stared coolly back at him. He paid her to look after international partnerships, and that’s what she was going to do. It had taken her months to get an invitation to ICAI, and about the same time again to persuade Phyllis to get Bill to come along. Burston Central was the only post-92 in the bottom quartile of the league table to get invited, and she was going to make the most of the opportunity.

The two visitors were watching the sideshow. Bill realised that they weren’t giving the best impression of Burston Central. Ah, what did it matter about the speed-dating whatsits today? It wasn’t really competition He could veto anything he didn’t like later. He summoned up one of his fake smiles and glanced down at the business cards he was holding. “No, Sunita, I’m really keen to hear more about, er, the Gujarat Normal College and the possibilities for partnership with Burston Central.” He might as well get a bit of market research out of them while he was there. He fixed the smile into place, and took out his notepad.

Wading Through Treacle is entirely fictional. You can follow @wadingtreacle on Twitter, or like the Wading Through Treacle page on Facebook to be informed of updates, or click on ‘follow’ at the bottom of this screen to register for updates from Wading Through Treacle. For last year’s advent calendar, see The Unknown Tutor.

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Reposted from earlier in the year: The Germ of an Idea

Bill Noakes shifted restlessly in his seat. It was only 9.30 am in Gandhinagar, but he was still uncomfortable in the huge marquee. The chairs seemed a bit on the small side. They were packed tightly together, and he wasn’t too sure how strong they were. He felt as though he were slightly overflowing the seat. The edges were digging into his thighs. Phyllis had been nagging him about losing weight for months. She said it was definitely her business; part of her PA duties included keeping him on form and fit for work. He had been ignoring her. That was one thing she couldn’t enforce. But maybe she had a point after all.

The temperature was forecast to rise to 32C, and maybe higher for the following day.  He ran his finger round the inside of his shirt collar. The Indian delegates were much less formally dressed. No suits and ties, but open-necked shirts with jumpers over the top, although these were starting to be peeled off now. He didn’t dare take off his jacket. He could feel the sweat forming dark circles under his arms.

On the stage, flowers were being presented to a succession of local and international dignitaries, each bouquet accompanied by a speech about how the International Conference for Academic Institutions 2013 would foster special collaborations between Gujarati and non-Indian institutions. Why couldn’t they just get on with things? He was here to make contacts and promote the University of Central Burston, not just to listen to people slapping themselves on the back. Bill leaned over and whispered loudly to his Head of International Partnerships, Sunita Hundal.

“How long is this bit going to go on?”

Sunita looked embarrassed. She replied in a whisper several notches lower than Bill’s. “Not too long, Vice Chancellor. It’s just a traditional way of thanking people for their sponsorship and support, and recognising their importance in forming productive economic relationships.” She emphasised the last part of the sentence.

Bill sighed loudly and straightened up. The dignitaries were now all seated on the stage. Someone seemed to be giving them all a vote of thanks. He glanced down at the programme. Oh well, at least people were only making short speeches. Seven minutes each? Practically elevator pitches.  It reminded him of his MBA. He sighed. Happy days, before the cares of his office had overcome him.

Craig Mahoney, the Chief Executive of the UK Higher Education Academy, was speaking now. He was citing some figures about HE in India. Bill took a few notes:

Need to build a new college every day to cope with population increases

Indira Gandhi National Open University has 2.6 million students

Next, up, the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Indian Government investing in HE to drive economy.

Need international partnerships to create knowledge from information.

Never been a for-profit uni that has been a major knowledge producing centre for the past 2,600 years.

Phil Baty was talking about world rankings now. That wasn’t something that Burston Central could get very excited about.

Bill’s attention drifted and he started thinking about what he’d already heard. The UK market was pretty dead, if they would only be honest about it. Mahoney had just said that the UK had slipped massively in terms of the percentage of GDP spent on HE. And the figures were looking very bad for the next couple of years. Last week’s UCAS figures were probably the beginning of a trend, and institutions like Burston Central were likely to be squeezed badly, maybe catastrophically. He didn’t want to be the VC who presided over the demise of the University, but he couldn’t see any clear way out. Alan’s idea for the University College was interesting, but far too small to make any real impact. But India was definitely expanding.

There was no way he was going to be able to find the capital to do what Nottingham had done, and build a replica campus in Ningbo, or a customised one in Malaysia. Even if by some miracle he could find the money, employing UK staff in those countries was really expensive. And it was probably against Burston Central’s principles, too, he thought self-righteously. It was practically neo-colonialism, as he remembered one of the UCU committee saying when he’d mooted some kind of similar idea in 2007, when the possibility of finding funding hadn’t seemed so remote, and the UK market had seemed to be expanding. Not that he cared about being neo-colonialist, but as he couldn’t afford to set up branch campuses, he might as well take a principled stance.

What if the University College of North Burston idea could provide a model, a template, for emerging markets? What about having a real franchise system, a sort of HE Subway chain? Subway provided the raw ingredients, the recipes, the Health and Safety advice, the training manuals and the marketing information. The franchise holder provided the premises and the staff.  In a similar way, Burston Central could provide all of the teaching materials, the regulations, and the degree certification. It was a genius idea.

It would be pioneering, taking the idea of the university to the masses in an affordable way. And why shouldn’t a for-profit system produce knowledge?  Obviously, all institutions needed to be solvent before they could invest in all the frilly stuff Ron Barnett had suggested in last week’s Times Higher about higher purpose, which had made him spit his coffee out on the plane to Ahmedabad.  But they could always aspire to that later.

He’d get the details sorted out as soon as he got back. Even though Alan had left him in the lurch, he now had those two ex-business academics seconded to the project, and they seemed to have some notion of what was needed. In any case, they were relatively junior; he could soon get them into line.

He scribbled frantically on his notepad, shielding the text from Sunita. He wasn’t going to trust anyone else with this idea until he’d got a concrete plan in place. It was fucking brilliant. This was going to be his legacy.  He looked up and gazed at the garlanded dignitaries. Next year, he’d be one of people getting a bouquet on the main platform, and a Queen’s award for export to go with it…

Wading Through Treacle is entirely fictional. You can follow @wadingtreacle on Twitter, or like the Wading Through Treacle page on Facebook to be informed of updates, or click on ‘follow’ at the bottom of this screen to register for updates from Wading Through Treacle. For last year’s advent calendar, see The Unknown Tutor.

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Something Big

Bill Noakes was pacing up and down in his office.  The carpet was almost bare along the section between his desk and the far wall. Phyllis didn’t think it would look good to replace it while the whole place was on an austerity drive. Money was only supposed to be spent on student-facing areas, and students never came into the Vice Chancellor’s office. He suspected that the same carpet had been there when Burston Central became independent of the local Council in 1989, and it could have been pretty old then. Oh well. At least he could afford something better at home.

Bill paced whenever he wanted to develop an idea. Right now, he needed something new to work on. His project to set up a University College was well on its way; at least, he hoped that it was. He’d put a couple of people in charge of it, given them a budget. It was up to them now. What were their names again? Well never mind, it was pretty low risk – they were sworn to secrecy, and the budget was pretty small.  He’d bob back in whenever it got going properly, get some press coverage. Bob. That was one of them. What was the other? Shirley? Sharon? Whatever. No, it was all pretty small fry.

Bill wanted something bigger to get his teeth into. A proper legacy. Any idiot could run a modern university. So many bloody administrators, it revolved around itself anyway. Students were an afterthought, if you asked him.

A new Faculty? Could there be a chance of a medical school? That’s where the big bucks were. Shame his predecessor hadn’t bothered to go for it when the last lot were handed out in the 1990s. No bloody ambition, those ex-polytechnic directors. None whatsoever. Not that his peers were much better now. Wishy-washy, the lot of them.

Central part in the local community? He shook his head. Throwback to the 1850s, that one. Tedious, tedious meetings with councillors and worthy voluntary organisations. He’d rather gnaw his own knuckles off. Anyway, you’d be struggling to find any kind of a community in Burston these days. Everybody did their own thing. It was like a desert at night. Nobody was going to stay in town to go to any kind of worthy lectures or cultural events. Well, he wasn’t, anyway. No point. He shuddered at the thought of the area around the city centre.

Raise the national profile with something startling? He thought gloomily about the draft Research Excellence Framework submission his Head of Research had just shown him. There were no hidden gems in that little lot. Bringing Burston Central’s research up a notch wasn’t something which the chair of Council would be mentioning in his leaving speech. He grimaced, and took an antacid tablet from his desk drawer. God, it was so stressful, being VC of a place like this.

No new subjects, no new local stuff, no national leadership. What could his next big project be?

“Vice Chancellor”. Phyllis walked into the room.

Bill had his back to the door. He started, and the antacid got stuck at the back of his mouth.

Phyllis stood without moving until he had finished coughing. “Jesus, Phyllis, you could knock,” he wheezed.

“The door was open.”

“Well, maybe, but you could see I had my back to you….” Bill gave up. “Well, now that you’re in here…”

“I need to confirm your travel arrangements for India and Edith says you’ve got a family do on the night you’re supposed to be travelling.”


“Yes, you know, you’re going with Sunny. To promote the university at some Education Fair. You told me about it weeks ago.”

“Can’t someone else go?”

“No. You’re in the programme. The British Council are organising something special for you. It would look bad.”

“Oh, God. Why did you let me get talked into this?”

Phyllis narrowed her eyes. “I didn’t. You told me you were going. I did tell you Edith had something in the home diary.”

“Shit. Is there any way I could leave a bit later? Take a different route?”

She shook her head. “That’s the latest possible time to leave.”

A haunted expression crossed Bill’s face. “In that case, will you tell her I have to go?”

Phyllis stared at him briefly, then turned and left the room.

Bill decided to interpret this as assent.

He resumed pacing. He couldn’t remember anything about whatever it was he was meant to be doing in India, but there was the germ of an idea coming into his mind. Overseas. Recruitment. Fees. Was that the way forward for Burston Central? Could that be his legacy?

His mind was racing. He went back to his desk and sat down in front of the computer. Time for some research on internationalisation.


From: Justin Marks, Head of Campus Communications 
Subject: Weekly Newsletter 
We’ve got a bumper issue for you this week! New term message from the Vice Chancellor, an exciting addition to the Employee Benefits programme, research seminar round-up AND a special seminar from the Well-Being team.

Vice Chancellor’s message

Welcome back, everyone! Spring hasn’t quite burst on Burston, but I have a spring in my step as we move towards our new future. This term will see the announcement of some very, very exciting plans which will secure our situation going forward. Drilling down into the detail, I am sure that all of my colleagues will be delighted with the way we’re actioning new delivery methods which will leverage our relationships with stakeholders and partners across the world. Burston Central is going places! Unfortunately we may have to sunset some of our traditional approaches and disciplines as we move to line up our ducks in a row across the piece. More news soon! *

You will have seen the exciting news in yesterday’s Times Higher Education Supplement that we have an upwards trajectory in the Student Experience Survey 2013. We’ve gone up three places. Great news, but there is more to do. Looking forward to 2014!

Message from the Efficiencies Team

In the last staff survey, many people commented unfavourably on the length and frequency of meetings. As part of our response, we’re beginning a rolling programme to remove chairs from meeting rooms. Research shows that this will help to keep meetings shorter (Madeitup & Fads, 1984). In the longer term, seating will also be removed from lecture theatres to improve the focus and pace of lectures – something which our students who complain about ‘boring lecturers reading off the Powerpoint’ will appreciate. Watch this space.

Announcement from the Well-being team

Taking a leaf from our colleagues ‘across the pond’, we’re introducing a series of ‘Brown Bag Lunches’. Every Thursday in May, you can enjoy a useful presentation on a topic important to your well-being. The first session, on 2 May, is ‘Walking and Safety’. Main building, 1-2, room 11-3. Bring your lunch and learn how to stay safe wherever you walk with our Emergency Management Coordinator!**

Employee Benefits Programme

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve just signed up another retailer to our fantastic discount scheme: Primark will now be offering 10% off all purchases; show your staff card at the checkout.

Research seminar programme

Ethical Sourcing in the Fashion Industry’. Wednesday, 1 May, 4pm, New Lecture Theatre. All welcome.

*See The Guardian, 25/04/13

**I didn’t make this up. This is a real seminar being held at a US University next week. Thank you to my source…you know who you are!

Wading Through Treacle fictionalises the stuff in HE which you couldn’t make up. You can follow @wadingtreacle on Twitter, or like the Wading Through Treacle page on Facebook to be informed of updates, or click on ‘follow’ at the bottom of this screen to register for updates from Wading Through Treacle. Feel free to send me accounts of daft things which could be fictionalised by email, too:

If you want to read the Advent Calendar 2012, which has a bit more of a narrative, see the‘About’ page.