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Yes Professor? Will Yes Minister translate to higher education?

Setting a new incarnation of Yes Minister in an Oxford college may be all we need, says Paul Greatrix
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.

A while back there was much speculation about the possible return of Blackadder with our hero playing the part of a lecturer in a present day university. This did not seem to be the most brilliant of ideas as making great comedy out of higher education has proved rather challenging over the years.

A different but equally much loved series, Yes Minister, is reported to be returning to the fray, this time as a stage play set in an Oxford College. Of course, there is a classic episode ‘Doing the Honours’ which does feature an Oxford College which includes some rather barbed dialogue:

The Master of Ballie College:

How might one set about persuading a Minister of the importance of Baillie College?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:

Oh, I don’t know. Why don’t you get him down here to a High Table dinner?

The Master of Ballie College:

Is he of the intellectual caliber to understand our case?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:

Oh yes. Well, surely our case is intelligible to anyone with the intellectual calibre of of Winnie-the-Pooh.

The Master of Ballie College:

Quite. And Hacker *is* of the intellectual caliber of Winnie-the-Pooh?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:

Oh yes. On his day.

Earlier the Master of Baillie explains to Sir Humphrey the economics of home v international students:

We’d have to take 400 to replace a mere 50 foreigners.

The staff/student ratio would go from 1:10 to 1:34.

We’d have classrooms, dormitories…like Wormwood Scrubs!

Or the University of Sussex!

From Screen to Stage

The Times reported, pre-pandemic, that the show would return as a play – I’m Sorry Prime Minister I Can’t Quite Remember – starring Simon Callow as former PM Jim Hacker, now in his eighties and master at Hacker College, Oxford, where he is facing a revolt from students angered by his political incorrectness. Only Sir Humphrey can save him from the revolting students apparently.

The most cherished characters in political comedy are being resurrected by Jonathan Lynn for an “elegiac” play that he said would explore “what happens to people who have tremendous power and influence . . . and then have none and when they are old they are forgotten”.

“They don’t have many friends and so by the time they are very old, I think in the case of Jim and Humphrey, they are utterly baffled by the way the world has changed and gone apparently crazy as far as they are concerned, and yet they can do absolutely nothing about any of the things they care about.”

Will it be any good? Who knows. In any case, the world premiere was due to be in June but will no doubt now be rescheduled so we will have to wait a little longer to find out. I have to say I remain sceptical though.

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