This article is more than 8 years old

Validate this: fun and games with quality assurance

A new comic higher education novel. Exploiting the non-stop hilarity of academic quality assurance. Apparently.
This article is more than 8 years old

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

A new higher education comic novel?

I’ve written before about books covering higher education in general and the commented on the end of the campus novel as well as its possible reinvention. Other posts looked at a couple of new and not very promising offers from the US  and a mixed bag of satirical novels from closer to home intended to capture the humorous and darker side of British higher education life.

Now I’ve just discovered this new novel which starts with the somewhat unpromising premise of an attempt to secure CNAA validation at a college in the early 80s:

The Validation: A Hilarious Comic Novel Lifts the Lid on the Bizarre World of Higher Education

Cliff Bowman draws on his three decades of experience of UK Higher Education establishments to bring us   ‘The Validation’. This celebrated and witty novel takes readers into the inner-workings of Helmsley College of Higher Education; it’s 1982 and the college is fighting the CNAA to get a very odd degree course validated. It’s a quirky story with an even more bizarre ending, being celebrated by one critic as something that would give “Bill Bryson a run for this money”…

During my time working in quality assurance under the delights of the CNAA regime, I was involved in many validation events. The comedy value of these was, at best, minimal. Still, someone has clearly seen something I failed to do in the hitherto untapped comic territory of higher education course approval processes.

Here then is the press release in full:


United Kingdom – When it comes to an industry full to the brim with egos, petty bureaucracy and ineffectual hierarchies, nothing trumps the tumultuous world of Higher Education.

In his compelling and insightful new comic novel, Cliff Bowman embroils readers in the clueless goings on of one such Higher Education establishment. The pressures to boost student enrolments push Helmsley College of HE to design a new degree targeted at students destined for a life in ‘middle management’.Synopsis:

The story is set in Helmsley College of Higher Education College, the year is 1982, taking readers through the tortuous process of getting a very odd degree course ‘validated’ by the CNAA, and sharing the pain of the heroes involved in it.

Because the validating panel is made up of subject experts from other Higher Education institutions, readers are also able to poke their noses in to other educational establishments.

The story culminates with the validation itself, a two-day nightmare for all concerned that produces a surprising outcome.

“There have been some great campus novels, from the likes of Kingsley Amis, David Lodge and Tom Sharpe, but my inspiration was The Tin Men by Michael Frayn.” explains Bowman, now Professor of Strategy at Cranfield University. “This is a story set in the Thatcher years but the kind of nonsense described is still around in many of today’s Universities and Colleges. Novelists are advised to write about what they know, and just about everything in this book is based to some extent on personal experiences.  My aim was to produce a smile on every page, and anyone who has had some experience of our great HE system will probably recognise somebody in this sorry saga!”

‘The Validation’ is available now from Amazon. Do let me know if it’s any good.

One response to “Validate this: fun and games with quality assurance

  1. There must be scope for a satire on the internal politics within a University, but somehow I do worry that it may never be as mad as somethings I’ve seen & no doubt everyone else has as well

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