Purely Academic

A Satire

Purely Academic - Front Cover
David Stephens
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£12.99, US$ 20.99, € 18.60
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About The Author

David Stephens was born in Woking in 1950 and for the past three decades has worked in a number of universities in the UK, Norway and sub-Saharan Africa. He has drawn upon this experience, and the prevailing winds of neo-liberalism that are blowing through Higher Education in Britain, in the writing of Purely Academic. He currently spends about three months of the year as Professor of International Education at the University of Brighton and the rest of the time in Peru where he writes, cooks and researches his next novel which will be set in Barranco, the Bohemian suburb of Lima where he lives.

About The Book

Gurney Sleep wants three things in life: ‘recognition, promotion and sex but not necessarily in that order’. When his highly successful boss and mentor, Professor Nigel Williams suggests he takes charge of the Department of Contrastive Linguistics’ end-of-year Centenary Celebrations Gurney diffidently and reluctantly agrees.

Set in one of England’s new universities – the 17th most applied to in fact – Purely Academic is both a critique of the wind of neo-liberalism blowing through higher education and a celebration of one man’s efforts to do something about it - whatever it is. It is also a portrait of Gurney’s quest to understand what he knows, what he doesn’t know and the difference in between.

As the year progresses - and the Centenary draws ever closer - Gurney is buffeted, not only by a university culture that knows the ‘cost of everything, and the value of nothing’ but also by an increasing number of women – Amy, Alice, Abigail, and Andrea, who might well help Gurney achieve all three of his aims, if only he could remember their names.

With his best friend, the administrator Linden Slackly at his side - and helped by lashings of weak lager and pork scratchings - Gurney is soon embroiled in departmental politics, student indifference and the problems of his mother and her neighbour, Albert.

In the tradition of David Lodge and Malcolm Bradbury, Purely Academic is a farce-of-ideas set at a time when universities in England are at cross-roads leading either towards privatisation, austerity, and ‘economic engagement’ or back to scholarship, teaching and the generation of knowledge for its own sake. Pulled both ways, Gurney Sleep tries to remember who he is, what he wants to achieve, and the importance of the modal auxiliary verb at a time of change. The rest is purely academic.