This article is more than 4 years old

Dark days ahead for Felpersham University

Paul Greatrix surveys the (academic) fields of Ambridge, and describes the state of higher education in BBC Radio 4's The Archers.
This article is more than 4 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

It’s fair to say that Felpersham University is not often in the headlines.

It is the local university for everyone’s favourite fictional rural community, Ambridge, home of the Archers. Felpersham University has occasionally made it into the rankings, but has not had much of an impact on Ambridge – with only one or two local youths progressing there and little if any meaningful community engagement over the years.

As you may be aware, Ambridge has been largely immune so far to the full effects of the Coronavirus. Indeed the village seems to have completely avoided the pandemic and, bizarrely, are at the time of writing still not required to be involved in any lockdown whatsoever. And the pub, whatever it is called this week, is very much still open.

Academic affinities

Darker days are ahead though as we know and this is going to be tough for the village and for its local (but rather remote) university which is inevitably going to struggle given its poor attempts at local student recruitment and its narrow research base. However, there are two bright spots for the university. The first is that there are many academic staff at other universities who have a strong affinity for the Archers as a result of sharing names with the main characters. For example:

  • David Archer is Professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago.
  • Neil Carter is a Professor of Politics at the University of York.
  • Just a slightly different spelling but there is a Linda Snell who is Professor of Medicine at McGill University.
  • And, most relevantly, you can find Brian Aldridge. Clinical Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Carle Illinois College of Medicine, at the University of Illinois-Urbana.

There are, I am sure, many more.

Research with impact

But, more importantly for long term survival, the Archers has become the focus for a major international programme of research.

Academic Archers is a research community with a difference

Academic Archers is an experimental form of academic community which uses The Archers as a lens through which wider issues can be explored. As a community we share our knowledge of the programme, our research interests, and a lot of laughs, creating the academic field – if you will – of Ambridgeology. In all that we do, our values are to be ‘curious, generous and joyful’.

Full details of this genuinely lovely grouping can be found here but one of the most significant activities is their annual conference which brings together all that is of major topical research interest in the Archers. For example, from the 2020 conference there are these fascinating reports of recent academic investigations as presented to delegates:

Parents, siblings, and the pursuit of power: Predicting the future leaders of Ambridge, Timothy Vercellotti, Professor of Political Science, Western New England University

‘From the moment those two joined the committee it’s been grunge bands, sumo wrestlers and souffle competitions’ – What Ambridge’s civil society says about UK politics in 2019, Amy Sanders, PhD student, Cardiff University

The law of the land, land law and family dynamics in The Archers, Elizabeth Campion, Master of Laws at the University of Cambridge

Can’t Afford the Laurels? – Care Provision in Ambridge in 2041, Ruth Heilbronn and Rosalind Janssen, UCL Institute of Education

An overview of management styles in the Archers with a discussion of Douglas McGregor’s management Theory X and Theory Y to the Ambridge workforces, Lucinda Bufton

Here’s a poster presented at the conference:


There may be dark days ahead for Felpersham University in particular – and higher education sector in general – but we can be confident that the legendary radio programme will keep them on the map, and that it will continue to be a fertile landscape for an ever growing programme of thoroughly relevant and impactful academic research.

4 responses to “Dark days ahead for Felpersham University

  1. Thank you for your insights into the endeavours and interests of “Academic Archers”. As a life-long listener of the Archers, I have followed the work of this group since its beginnings a few years ago. Your comments made me smile on this grey Tuesday morning, yet another day of online meetings in these odd days of working in HE from home…like others I’m guessing, I’m wondering how, when (and if?) Covid 19 will start to influence the characters and plotlines….

  2. Loving the network analysis but I think the whole thing will be upended by the newly-revitalised Tracey Horrobin. IMHO it is she who will become the dominant female in the network, particularly if her liaison with Roman Trench (great name) leads to lots of little Trenches.

  3. I suspect that the classic moniker of Tracey’s inamorato was plucked at random by a bored scriptwriter from the map of a dig carried out by the Archaeology Department of Felpersham Uni.

  4. Thanks as always Paul for having your finger on the pulse of what we lifelong Archers fans have been pondering for a while now – will the Covid-19 crisis be over before it gets a mention?!

Leave a Reply