This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
What does the T-shirt say?
"Beer: helping ugly people have sex since 1862".
I've always thought that JEB's fictional "University of Nether Wallop" is probably mainly based on Keele University. Nether Wallop is actually a real location, a village in Hampshire. The only UK university which is named after a village is Keele, all the others are named after cities, county towns, counties or regions.
Keele has some other Nether Wallopish attributes - its most famous alumni are probably the left wing lawyer Michael Mansfield and Peter Mond, also known as Lord Melchett and Baron Melchett, who was the head of Greenpeace UK during the 1990s (not to be confused with the Lord Melchett in 'Blackadder').
Last year Keele University did something that made the comparison with Nether Wallop even more striking - it appointed Jonathon Porritt as Chancellor of the University. The university newspaper "Keele Times", in its "Installation Special 2012" reported the event as follows:
"Jonathon Porritt was officially installed as the new Chancellor of Keele University at a special ceremony in the University Chapel last week.
He is the University's fourth Chancellor and succeeds Professor Sir David Weatherall. His installation as Chancellor is the first official event in Keele's 50th Anniversary year.
The new Chancellor told a packed audience in the University Chapel: "This is quite a privilege for me - quite a daunting experience to be honest. This is a very heavy responsibility placed on my shoulders and a very interesting time to take up this role as the University embarks on the 50th Anniversary of its incorporation."
He said he was "absolutely delighted and deeply honoured" to be the Chancellor of Keele University - "a critical part of my excitement at taking up this role is that Keele is already an exemplar in many aspects of sustainability and academic rigour, good science and the use of knowledge are an essential part of what we are doing."
Professor Nick Foskett, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, said: "We believe that Jonathon's appointment as Chancellor recognises and underlines our core values and ambitions. His own profile as critical thinker, as clear advocate for the values that we share, as believer in the importance of evidence-based and science-based policy and decision-making, and of course his leading commitment to the sustainability of current and future society matches closely what we uphold at Keele. We look forward to his support, to his wise counsel and to his engagement in developing and delivering our vision for Keele and its students over the coming years, as we seek to further enhance the achievements, profile, reputation and influence of Keele University."
In his oration to present the Chancellor Designate, Professor Pat Bailey, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Natural Sciences, said: "Jonathon has received acclaim and recognition from the highest levels, but is committed to addressing issues that affect everyday people around the world. His impact on environmental issues is aligned to Keele's commitment to sustainability - a commitment that concerns activities locally here on campus, but also in the wider regional and UK communities – and hopefully globally too. His adherence to academic rigour and scholarly argument align perfectly with the ideals of this University.""
The above sounds just like a bunch of Nether Wallop academics talking.
Nice one, Dave. I accept the apparent kinship between the two elite academic institutions, of which I was unfortunately unaware.
I hate to raise doubts about a beautiful theory, but the fact is that it was the next village up the Wallop Brook (upon which I was privileged to cast the dry fly) from where I lived at the time. The natives were always a bit annoyed that their village was often used as a comedic reference. It has a rather remarkable church, with the ONLY surviving Anglo-Saxon wall painting. It was, somewhat reluctantly, the site of the Nether Wallop Arts Festival featuring many later famous names, including one Billy Connolly whose contribution is perhaps best forgotten.
The evolution of the Metropolitan University is best summarised in the obituary of its founder (see archive 2002 August). There are one or two oblique references to real neighbours there, which I will not elaborate.
Thanks for the clarification John. I can now see that the fictional university is always described as the "Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop". I hadn't appreciated the significance of the Metropolitan bit. It looks like these Metropolitan universities are former polytechnics located in cities that have now been given university status.
I was assuming you were having a go at what were sometimes called "hippy universities" back in the 1970s. These were campus (single site) universities that started up in the 1960s and were most often in rural locations. Keele is a very good example of the type and has the unique attribute of being named after a small village. This type of university was satirised in the 1970s novel "The History Man" by Malcolm Bradbury, which was also turned into a TV drama. The fictional university in the novel is supposedly based on either the University of Sussex or the University of East Anglia.
My old grammar school (now closed down) used to advise pupils not to apply to this type of university (unless desperate) probably as a result of them not being particularly impressed by the closest university to the school, Lancaster University, which happened to be one of this type. The most famous alumni from Lancaster are probably James May (of Top Gear) and Phil Jones (head of CRU at East Anglia), to give an idea of who tends to come out of there.
One thing I didn't mention in my previous post was that Keele University also do the kind of bleeding obvious psychology research that JMW describes in the starting post in the thread. They won an "Ignobel Prize" in 2010 for the following piece of research:
Awarded to psychologist Richard Stephens and others at Keele University for confirming that swearing relieves pain. Stephens, who began the study after striking his thumb with a hammer, found volunteers could tolerate more pain if they repeated swearwords rather than neutral words. He suspects that "swearing induces a fight-or-flight response and nullifies the link between fear of pain and pain perception"."
Getting close, Dave, but your aim is still a little high.
Although the University of Sussex is rightly caricatured for famous examples of “liberal” extremism, it actually houses some excellent centres of research. This happens to include my own field of sensor technology, as I discovered when acting as a PhD external examiner there. They are quite distinct from the publicity seekers at the arty end.
Perhaps another example from my own history will give a further clue. I stood in for one of my research students, who helped maintain himself with part-time lecturing at a local technical college, but was indisposed. For an hour I struggled to teach a class of apprentices about Ohm’s law. Heaven knows what a mess I would have got into if I had revealed that it is not actually true. If you want a literary model for that experience, you would be best advised to go to the Tom Sharpe “Wilt” novels. That college is now a Metropolitan University, lately of some notoriety.
Incidentally, I also served for a few years as external examiner to the electronics department at Lancaster, which I would also put in the excellent class: not that anyone outside the field would get to hear of it.
In my youth, when I was a victim of the education system, my journey to technical college was on a bus occupied largely by "Art Students", there being an "Art College" en route to my technical college which has now miraculously become part of the University of the South Bank or something similar. Not sure by what means they were able to levitate to the heady heights of University status other than by simply changing the name.
These days the aspirations of doting parents for some form of qualification for their less than illustrious offspring seem to be catered for by "Media Studies".
I was surprised to discover that Media studies could lead to gainful employment, other than in MacDonalds, when one of these people appeared on the Eurovision Song Contest. He had achieved a Doctorate for his studies of the Contest. He didn't have anything interesting to say of course, but evidently the BEEB had taken pity and flown him out to Baku, interviewed him and in the process squandered yet more of the license payers money.
Then I learn that our exemplary PM has a PPE from Oxford.
Since the man is an obvious moron, I assume that these nonsense degrees are now a stock in trade for most educational establishments.
I fondly imagine that establishments like Eton, and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have long enjoyed the munificence of the aristocracy by beating into their offspring some semblance of education. Thus making them at first contact not too obviously mentally challenged.
The old ways of learning by rote (accompanied by a severe beating at regular intervals) were well up to the task of imprinting the Classics into their bird like brains.
However it seems that with the loss of corporal punishment they have given up on such ambitions with the modern ne'r do wells and simply hand out nonsense degrees.
Even so, usually he system can manage these chumps quite well. It is what civil servants are for, to make sure they don't do too much damage to themselves or the country.
However I also suspect that Blair has a lot to answer for.
Someone who has made an art form of religious fanaticism, complete with voices in the head, it seems, telling him it is OK to lie to the electorate and even to fellow parliamentarians, and who has completely destroyed the civil service.
It was he, was it not? or his government, that decided on the awards for all styles of dumbed down education, multiple choice questions as challenging as those phone in contests and a bit of paper handed out like lollipops to all who and sundry.
So I suppose we should also credit him with creating all these pretend scientists who, with the memories of their primary school education, are encouraged to take even the slenderest idea and turn it into something for which some one somewhere will award a grant (using taxpayers money).
In other words, even science has its modern day equivalents of the "Media Studies" educational lollipops to hand out.
It makes it really difficult for the poor lay public to sort out from the lollipop science reported by all those media studies correspondents, the difference between lollipop science and the real thing.
Yes, Blair is responsible for many of the present ills of our society, but it was the Major administration that turned our polytechnics, some of which were excellent at what they did and an important national resource, into Mickey Mouse universities.
Thanks to Dave for that information on Keele.
Coincidentally I have been wondering of late what had happened to Jonathan Porritt. He seems to have gone very quite, perhaps like the father of the Gaia concept, he has had an epiphany that coincides with proposals for a wind farm in within yards of his garden fence?
Nil nisi etc.
Princess Margaret was the first Chancellor.