I find it a wonderfully surreal experience to spend a morning bug fixing and then sit down on my deck here in Vancouver to read my old college gazette. When I was at college, and on the couple of times since that I've been back, it feels perfectly natural to have dinner with people who have more letters after their name than you could fit on a full page of the Times, and to toast the Queen - with absolutely no irony, and a distinct sense that it would be Noticed if one didn't - at the start of each meal. When you're several thousand miles away, reading paragraphs such as:
"With the abolition of the office of Lord Chancellor, the role of Visitor has returned to the Crown. However, in anticipation of this change, the Society has been, and continues to be, engaged in a major exercise to revise and update our Statutes, including new arrangements for the appointment of the Visitor. The approach we have adopted provides for layered Statutes, Ordinances and Regulations with the Statutes subject to revision only by recourse to the Privy Council, whilst Ordinances and Regulations might be altered more easily by differently weighted votes of our own College Meeting. There is still much work to be done on the detail before our Governing Body agrees to propose the new Statutes to the University for eventual approval by the Privy Council."
feels wonderfully bizarre.
I suppose to some (particularly, I expect, Americans) this level of association between a university and the government of the realm seems strange and rather worrying, but I quite like it. I just like the feel of a system that evolved in an utterly different time and which has been preserved by weight of momentum more than anything else. In a strange way, the fact that it is clearly an utterly inappropriate system that would never be designed in the present day makes everyone involved in it act rather impeccably. I suspect there's rather less actual conflict of interest, patronage and so on going on between Oxbridge and the U.K. government than there is between the Ivy League universities and the U.S. government, though it does happen.