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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

Higher Education

‘I’m worried, John. We’re never going to increase the number of graduates this university produces to meet government targets.’

‘Why not?’

‘Well, just look at this graph of intelligence distribution in the population. We used to select the most able, then, as the target numbers increased, we were forced to recruit students with lower ability. To hit higher targets now we’ll have to move into the SP range.’


‘Short planks.’

‘It’s simply a matter of tailoring the courses to the aptitudes of the students.’

‘In the past, perhaps. Leisure Centre Management and Sports Science were great successes. The students we’re supposed to be attracting now are too stupid even for Media Studies.’

‘Don’t worry, the BA course will solve all that.’

‘BA in what?’

‘Not in anything. BA stands for ‘Bugger All’. It’s our new undergraduate programme.’

‘What’s it about?’

‘Nothing. That’s the beauty of it. Students develop an in-depth understanding across a broad range of topics with a common theme of insubstantial nullity. At least that’s what we’ve said in the prospectus.’

‘How do we teach ‘nothing’?’

‘We start by modelling the core philosophical concepts of non-existence in the fabric of the course structure.’

‘In what way?’

‘There are no lectures, tutorials, set books or anything like that. In fact there are no staff whatsoever in the BA faculty.’

‘Isn’t that a waste of a building?’

‘What building?’

‘OK, so aren’t the students at a bit of a loose end?’

‘Well, not really. Even the traditional courses only have around one lecture a fortnight with the remaining time for private study and research. Most students are too drunk, stoned or hung-over to turn up for that lecture anyway, so the student experience of the BA course isn’t substantially different. Did you know that a recent MORI poll showed that, by their second year, eighty-four percent of student can’t recall the subject of the degree they’re studying any more?’

‘How is the BA course assessed?’

‘By assignments.’


‘Nothing, of course.’

‘When do they submit them?’


‘So nobody fails?’

‘Precisely. And thus our graduate statistics rise.’

‘This sounds very well thought out. How long is the course?’

‘Three years, although there is a four year option in which a year is spent away from university undertaking some form of practical, hands-on inactivity. We’ve already made arrangements for placements in organisations which specialise in quiescence and inertia.’

‘Such as?’

‘The police are accepting placements in their burglary investigation division, for example. Many builders and tradesman employ people not to turn up for prearranged appointments with householders.’

‘This is going to attract lots of students. What about the impact on the university infrastructure, not to speak of student accommodation in the city?’

‘We can screen-out at interview students who would cause those problems. We don’t accept those with excessive corporeality.’

‘You mean you only accept applicants who don’t exist?’

‘They’re the ones who show the greatest affinity with the subject matter.’

‘Brilliant, John. Our jobs are saved.’