Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Rise of the Flexigator

A fully balanced flexigator diet of a block grant burger and side order of study leave
Photo by Edward Franklin on Unsplash

With the rise in vegetarianism and veganism, meat eaters with a conscience are having a difficult time. They enjoy meat, but they don't want to appear like they don't care about animal welfare or the future of the planet.

Luckily semantics is at hand to help them out. 'Flexitarianism' is the new name they invented to suggest that they've given some serious thought to things, and that, whilst they'll still eat anything they want, they might occasionally eat a bit less meat and aren't adverse to a lentil or two.

The success of 'flexitarianism' has had an unexpected effect on the world of research funding. It has been adapted by those academics who really care about grants and external funding, but don't actually want to change any old habits.

'Flexigators' are principal investigators who have always been able to have a fully balanced diet of central university funding for their research, but have recently been made to feel a little guilty about not getting any external project grants.

'Veganators', on the other hand, have given up central university funding completely. They give long, worthy lectures about not wanting to perpetuate the exploitative and unsustainable cross subsidising of research by tuition fees.

Flexigators agree with them in principle, but the smell of central university funding is just so seductive. And the taste of no competition! What's more, well, it's the natural diet of an academic, right? It would be unnatural to give it up completely. You can't undo millions of years of HE evolution.

However, they do recognise the need to rely a little less on the delicious flesh of the block grant. They therefore occasionally submit a nominal application for an 'in kind' grant that would allow them to visit the Marmaduke Center for Advanced Studies in Sacramento for a week. Having submitted it, and told everyone about it and how they're now 'essentially' a veganator, they can nip out for a cheeky block grant sandwich.

Flexigatorism is a step in the right direction. It shouldn't be belittled. Being a veganator is a huge shift and it's not right for everyone. For the majority, flexigatorism is a necessary and entirely natural way to consume research funding. If everyone became a veganator immediately, what would happen to all the block grants, and all the people who work in the block grant industry? Who's thought about them?

In fact, flexigators see the bigger picture, and the complexities of the teaching/research nexus. There's a need for consumers of block grants, otherwise the wider economic environment falls apart. Yes, yes, veganators can 'save the world', but it takes a level of realism to sacrifice yourself to the needs of the block grant. Flexigators are essential for the wellbeing of the wider HE ecosystem, and they should be applauded!

So pass me the ketchup, will you? I've got a study leave baguette on the way.

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