December 07, 2006

Moving on…

Writing about web page http://proleartthreat.wordpress.com/

Forgotten but not quite gone

Have now moved on…so this one goes into black hole but the occasional book review and playlist will be appearing care of wordpress

Fall cover

So, keep an eye on the new Prole Art Threat

And, if you must, you can always email me at:

paul.greatrix@nottingham.ac.uk

And one final thing is to say thank you to everyone around the University (including special mentions to the SU, to the folks in the Commercial Group and those in University House) for the wonderful gifts and donations to make sure that I definitely do leave. I am touched and enormously grateful for everything and for the very kind words. Thank you so much.

Missing you already!


October 23, 2006

The first campus novel?

Book front cover
Title:
The Groves of Academe
Author:
Mary McCarthy
ISBN:
0156372118
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars

The Groves of Academe – Mary McCarthy

I struggled for ages to track down this book which is, arguably, the first campus novel and was very positively disposed towards it in principle. Liberal arts college in the US, 60s turmoil, lots of politics, undercurrents of sexual intrigue – can’t go wrong, I thought. Unfortunately, whilst it does have some merits, including what feels like an accurate portrayal of a largely second rate faculty torn apart by petty strife, it is really rather dull.

The first part of the book focuses on the main character, Mulcahy, and his attempts through bizarre means to secure an extension to his short term contract whilst he seeks both to create and deny a vaguely mysterious communist background. The second part covers an awful poetry conference at the college and the shenanigans around the poets and their sponsors.

It must all have seemed terribly daring and challenging at the time but, whereas Lodge’s campus novels really do stand the test of time, this one I am afraid does not.


How to run a University?

Book front cover
Title:
Rosovsky: the University: an Owner'S Manual (Cloth)
Author:
H Rosovsky
ISBN:
0393027821
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

The University: An Owner’s Manual

Very interesting set of insights from former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. Some wonderfully pragmatic and blunt tips aimed in particular at those academics who find themselves in senior management positions.

I found it pretty difficult to disagree with the sage advice herein although the references to Oxford were overly generous in terms of its managerial self-sufficiency and the assertions about the need for all senior academic administrative staff to be appointed rather than elected were inadequately defended.

Although the coverage of the student experience is very US-oriented, the sections on academic life and governance are extremely well done.

Overall, the style is relaxed and yet insightful and punchy, born out of many years of toil at the decanal coal face. Well worth a read.


How to run a University?

Book front cover
Title:
Rosovsky: the University: an Owner'S Manual (Cloth)
Author:
H Rosovsky
ISBN:
0393027821
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

The University: An Owner’s Manual

Very interesting set of insights from former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. Some wonderfully pragmatic and blunt tips aimed in particular at those academics who find themselves in senior management positions.

I found it pretty difficult to disagree with the sage advice herein although the references to Oxford were overly generous in terms of its managerial self-sufficiency and the assertions about the need for all senior academic administrative staff to be appointed rather than elected were inadequately defended.

Although the coverage of the student experience is very US-oriented, the sections on academic life and governance are extremely well done.

Overall, the style is relaxed and yet insightful and punchy, born out of many years of toil at the decanal coal face. Well worth a read.


October 09, 2006

Faddish behaviour

Management Fads in HE – Birnbaum

This is just an outstanding book. Although the focus is on the USA, the messages are eminently translatable to the UK context. Birnbaum carefully analyses and deconstructs the big management fads to have hit US universities including:

  • Management by objectives
  • Zero-based budgeting
  • Strategic planning
  • Benchmarking
  • TQM
  • Business process re-engineering

The reasons behind the popularity of each and the vulnerability of institutions and managers to their charms are also explored at length.

Despite the fact that he demonstrates their failures on all terms, Birnbaum concludes, surprisingly perhaps, that their introduction in a controlled and measured way can have positive benefits in forcing managers to think differently about the way in which they tackle big challenges. The conclusion of the book includes a strong exhortation to a humane and pragmatic approach to management in universities which, whilst not easily seduced by fads such as these, is capable of positive adaptation to changing environments.


October 05, 2006

Really, really important for effective management in HE?

Was mildly diverted and perplexed by the following post to the Admin-Planning mailbase:

At XXXX University we are currently developing a Decision Support/Business Intelligence system to provide strategic management information to all levels of decision makers. We are, at present, rolling out a BI Toolset which allows users to produce and share trend based analysis, KPI’s through a web based environment. Part of the toolset includes the ability to disseminate information through subject specific Dashboards whilst still maintaining the ability to further analyse it.

Leaving aside the jargon and split infinitive the bit that I find most surprising is that this system is provided to “all levels of decision makers”. All levels? Does this mean that everyone who takes any kind of decision (eg baked potato fillings on Thursdays) needs their own Dashboard?

Sometimes these things go just a little too far!


Face cards: approximation of a playlist §25

Face Cards

face cards

God save the Queen – Sex Pistols
Hey Jack Kerouac – 10,000 Maniacs
Jack – The Monochrome Set
The queen is dead – The Smiths
King Of Carrot Flowers Part 1 – Neutral Milk Hotel
Jack-ass – Beck
Karaoke queen – Catatonia
King of the kerb – Echobelly
Tracy Jacks – Blur
King of the road – The Proclaimers
Queen Bitch – David Bowie
King of kings – Echo and the Bunnymen
Queen of the new year – Deacon Blue
The king of rock n’ roll – Prefab Sprout
King Of The Mountain – Kate Bush
You’re My Queen – Mercury Rev
Dancing Queen – ABBA
Fiery Jack – The Fall
For We Are The King Of The Boudoir – The Magnetic Fields


September 24, 2006

Stoke of old

Book front cover
Title:
Anna of the Five Towns (Penguin Modern Classics)
Author:
Arnold Bennett
ISBN:
0141184167
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Anna of the Five Towns

One of those classics I meant to read when I actually lived in Stoke, but that was 15 years ago. Anna is complex and interesting and taking on her (substantial) inheritance and the attention of an energetic and successful local business man, Henry Mynors, presents her with a range of new challenges. This in addition to dealing with her exceptionally demanding father, running the household on a pound a week, spending all free time on evangelical missions for the local church and mixing it with the sewing circle.

The passages describing the work of the church, the school treat, Anna’s visit to a pot bank and a holiday on the Isle of Man are extrmely well realised. Entertaining, if partly foreshadowed, climax. Well worth a read though, especially if you like trying to work out which of the fictional five towns is based on which real one.


September 18, 2006

Very Onion–like

Writing about web page http://www.newsbiscuit.com/

But no worse for that

(and very slow….)

I particularly liked the idea of a Gary Glitter musical


September 16, 2006

Songs about circuses: approximation of a playlist §24

Songs about or related to circus stuff

animal trainer

The Trapeze Swinger – Iron & Wine
Send in the clowns – just about anyone
Tears of a clown – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
Acrobat – U2
Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
Tiger Feet – Mud
Brown girl in the ring – Boney M
Paradise Circus – The Lilac Time
Highwire – Rolling Stones
Crazy Horses – The Osmonds
The Big Top – Laurie Anderson
Nellie the elephant


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