There was a terrible echo on the line, dear Reader, once Darren had finally connected the transoceanic wiring to the Piggery generator in order for our conference call with UWL HQ and UWL Astana (Kazakhstan) to go ahead.
As my colleagues Prof Dragon (CEO), Dr Manchu (Comp Lit), Dr Yung (Psychology, poor Sigmund’s replacement), Lu-Seal (Deputy Under-Janitor) and I gathered at 0030 around the screen, sipping our cocoa, a wavy image of dear Frangipane (formerly Head of Sociology, UWL, now Pro-Vice Chancellor of UWL Astana, Kazakhstan) appeared upside down, waved, and then vanished.
‘Do your magic, dear boy’, I murmured.
Darren tweaked a coat-hanger.
Two overlapping images of SerBasil appeared on the screen, while the words ‘I did not have [white noise] with that [white noise]’ hung unsettlingly in the air.
‘You’re live, Mr President’, Darren whispered into a yoghurt pot.
Both SerBasils jumped slightly, cleared their throats, and spoke.
‘I have gathered you here today, dear colleagues, to remind you that the REF is Back.’
(For those of you who were playing the abomination known as Candy Crush in the back row when I last discussed this, I refer you to my previous account of the Research Exercise Framework 2014).
The SerBasils continued.
‘As the sound of sleigh bells fills the air now is the time to remind you that the REF results are also about to appear. I need not remind you that your future depends on these results.’
Jade, Fu, Karl, and I exchanged glances. Lu-Seal swooshed her mop busily in the corner.
‘Pro-Vice-Chancellors will receive the results in strictest confidence next Tuesday. You have 48 hours before they are released to the world. In that time you must write a convincing narrative showing UWL and its Eastern Possessions at the top of all the league tables’, the SerBasil Twins continued. ‘We must show research-intensivity at every opportunity. Non-productive programmes will be shut down. Under-recruiting modules must go. Those awarded anything less than 2 stars will be demoted.’
‘Quite so, SerBasil, SerBasil’, I yawned. ‘So, will there be more money?’
‘Oh no’, said SersBasil. ‘Not for any of you’.
At that moment the door burst open. It was Prof Mise, her hair wild, in a nightcap and gown.
‘The REF!’, she exclaimed. ‘Oh, goody!’