Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Cairoli Effect

Interesting data has been released by the Sutton Trust that shows that four schools and one college have provided more student intake for Oxbridge than 2000 other schools and colleges across the UK. This research should gladden the hearts every believer in the values of meritocracy throughout the country.

Out of interest, who are they?

The four schools and one college are Eton College, Westminster School,  St Pauls School, St Pauls Girls School and one state funded school, Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge. According to the research, they produced 946 Oxford and Cambridge entrants over the period 2007-2009. According to the figures this amounts to one in 20 of all admissions to the two universities compared to a total of 927 Oxbridge entrants a year drawn from 2000 schools and colleges.

What got these chaps there?

The research states that this is driven principally by A-level attainment results. It also notes that 'the tables also reveal large differences in university progression rates for some schools with similar examination results, particularly when considering entry to highly selective universities.'(1) It's comforting to know that it's definitely about what you know.

Nothing to do with money or your influential parents

It is the general view of the author of this blog that only a pre-cankerous broiler high on Marxist ideology and undiluted political activism could suggest that it is not entirely in the realms of reality and not fiction that a family on benefits, or indeed those on low or middle income, would be able to afford Eton's fees which are currently set at around £29,862 per academic year. We all know that state benefits are extremely generous and can thank the previous Labour government for closing the wealth gap and making single mothers some of the highest earners in the UK today. Thus it is not beyond the realms of fantasy to suggest that many of the students represented within these four schools and one college are likely drawn from families of lower paid public sector employees who are known to have a surfeit of disposable income allied to the sheer gold-plated-ness of their very generous public sector pensions. And there is a pay-off at the end for those who have tirelessly worked their way up the academic ladder and secured their deserved place at the tradition-soaked dining tables of Keeble Hall. The annual university fees of £9,000 will seem almost Lilliputian in contrast.

A ruddy good idea!

Now a thought has occurred and that always causes much concern within this Vagrant's household. Yes the cerebral fug is beginning to dissipate as this thought centres on a certain North West higher education institution. It's got something to do with this idea of transformation which in today's political parlance almost always means that things will only get better. Coincidentally, it's known that University of Salford Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Adrian Graves has always been interested in transformation.(2) We're now at that point where we ask readers to bear with us as we think this one's a real goer. Just to put minds at rest, it has nothing to do with the recently 'transformed' post-employment aspect of the University's grievance procedure* or steam engines.

An artist's impression of how the Ole Fire Station's 
entrance might be 'transformed' 
The centrality of words to language

Clearly the general public have suffered for many years with being exposed to the cobblers that ushers forth from the many mouths of national politicians and those referred to in senior management parlance as 'influencers'. Words and phrases such as 'reform' or 'when I said scrap fees I meant cap fees at £9,000' or 'none of it happened when I was the editor' have become almost commonplace. Yet the word 'transformation' has a very real meaning which is confirmed as it's in the dictionary. It can have either negative or positive connotations. For example if your wallet is stolen from you in an altercation with a Victorian street rough, you could find your bank account almost magically transformed from a position of high credit and yourself to one of fiscal wretchedness. The same might be the case if one entrusts their savings to the whims of a city rough or 'financial adviser' who might make the very believable claim to be remarkably adept in calibrating his market forecasts to the long range weather predictions of the UK Meteorlogical Office with roughly the same success rates. The piss-dampness of penury and debtors' gaol most assuredly awaits those who don't look back.

Transformation in nature and religion

But transformation is also good thing for society because it's a perfectly natural phenomena. Take for example the almost miraculous transformation of the humble caterpillar into the bumble bee. Without it there would be no honey. We're told by religious types of a christian hue that a chap called 'God' created the world in all its intricacies from nothing in six days and had a doss on the Sunday. What's this got to do with university education?

Without a direct tram link, Eton types take in the splendours of  Langworthy en route  to 
the new branch of Salford University Next to the BBC (SUNBBC)
Transforming debt from a little bit to a big bit

It's likely that if God hadn't retired from public service, he would have made university education free for all instead of the current free-for-all. Another public servant, the current Vice Chancellor Martin Hall, recently announced a transformation in University of Salford's fees from £3,290 per annum to a figure of around £8,400. For this princely sum, students are assured that their needs are catered for at UoS through an ongoing program of wider transformation, particularly in areas such as buildings, ICT and libraries as well as those prickly areas such as staffing levels among other things. Education will also play a part.

This process of transformation may have already produced results. In 2008-2009 the University saw around 150 academic and teaching staff transformed through the highly popular Project Headroom into around 150 not-academic and not-teaching staff. As an added bonus there was a concomitant transformation in the staff-student ratios in an upward trajectory as noted on this blog. Recently the University have embarked upon another round of 'role transformations' which will affect in the region of another 200 or so staff although we've not received any indication of what many of these staff  might yet be transformed into. However the question reamains. Are these job metamorphoses part of a wider plan of such Baldrickean cunningicity that like a game of tri-dimensional chess means they could well operate on two levels?

Is this it?

It's a matter of public record that Graves and Hall share with this author and God a fondness for facial hair. Both like this author largely migrated northwards in geographical terms. It is not known if the Coriolis Effect(3) had any influence on their decisions. Unlike this author, both were educated at Oxbridge and this could be the clever part. Might 'transforming' Salford's fees into something just a sheath's thickness lower than Oxford's or Cambridge's'es'es'es'ssss, produce a heady policy of 'differentiation' that may well entice young aristocrats meritocrats northwards in their just under a thousand? If so it wouldn't necessarily have to end there.

'Differentiation'... a word that goes quite well with 'transformation'

Another area that is garnering the attention of the transformers is a collection of letters assembled in a particular order that spells M.A.N.C.H.E.S.T.E.R. The University of Salford US website notes how:

'The new brand will support our transformation and create a distinct presence in the higher education marketplace and provide a greater awareness and understanding of the University, whilst providing a clearer differentiation from our competitor universities.'

What does this 'differentiation' comprise? According to the Salford Star (see below) it involves including the word 'Manchester' on the new University of Salford 'brand' logo. Time to recap: to 'differentiate' between the University of Salford and say two other Manchester universities with the word 'Manchester' in their names, University chiefs are planning to add the word 'Manchester'? Does this suggest that a combination of psychology and geography - geology - has  found favour within senior circles? Will this prove appealing? Will it increase the chances of ascending the University League tables in 2011-2012 to the heady heights of a place in the top ten in teaching? Will it power research to the fore and secure more Research Assessment Funding in the coming years? Will it cost lots of money? It's too soon to tell.

As the UoS clearly resides in a geographical location known as 'Salford' and not Manchester, it is not clear if this revamp will bring university bosses into collision with trades description legislation. Nor have we been able to yet confirm if the University of Manchester will follow suit, jump aboard the caravan and 'differentiate' itself from the University of Salford by including the word 'Salford' on its logo under the word 'Manchester'. Yet it doesn't have to end here either.

Charles Cairoli: such an ardent exponent of and
believer in the Cairoli Effect that
he named it after himself

From hockey sticks to slapstick

Recent cutting edge research undertaken by Daily Mail's showbiz research department shows that a whopping sixty percent (60%) of top pop chart dwellers have been privately educated.(4) Moving on from the much trumpeted 'Cappuccino Effect' that is said by Professor Hall to power MediaCity, we could well see the flowering of a latent 'Cairoli Effect' which might just help power the University of Salford Manchester into the future. What is this Cairoli Effect? It's quite simple. Given that the pop charts are now awash with artists clutching their GCSEs, A Levels and gold records, could it be that University bosses are metaphorically speaking dangling their crown jewels in the guise of Salford University Next to the BBC (SUNBBC)** in front of their topper-wearing young starstruck eyes in order to attract the next generation of X-Factoristas: highly educated light entertainists with a collective penchant for unicycles, exploding cars and mass toilet seat warming? It does make some sense.

Notes and References

The inevitable disclaimer: this is intended as a work of satire. For those thin-skinned enough to take offence or feel that corrections may be necessary, please contact before embarking upon an expensive and potentially embarrassing claims for libel. In the grand tradition of freedom of speech, we also operate a right of reply. 

* According to the University of Salford Grievance Procedure, there is no 'statute of limitations' (ie a time limit on taking out a grievance). As such, there is no validity as some have suggested in the wild and frankly silly speculation that only physicists are able to access this part of the post-employee procedure as the window of opportunity for instigating any grievance on leaving the employ of the university exists principally at a sub-atomic level .
** It is not known if leaders at the University of Salford are planning a new brand logo for MediaCity such as University of Salford with the italicised word ORDSALL  underneath.

(1) The Sutton Trust, 8 July 2011, sourced at
(2) Dr A Graves interview with  R Conway sourced at
(3) The Coriolis Effect, D Van Domelen, 1996 sourced at
(4) Liz Thomas, 5th December 2010, the Daily Mail sourced at

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1 comment:

  1. A lot like "Kingston University of London" -- what Kingston brands itself as.