Wednesday, 17 August 2011

And the award for irony goes to…

… The Hegemon, for its honorary degree policy. We've just given an honorary Doctorate in Business Administration to
Tony Collins – Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration in recognition of his significant and successful contribution to the railway management and rail passenger service of Virgin Trains
That's right. Not, you'll notice, for the top quality, efficiency and affordability of the railway system: the slowest and most expensive in Europe, not aided by yesterday's announcement of 8% price increases for the next three years.

But as a means of extracting cash from our pockets directly and through taxation, it's a winner. Did you know that Virgin Trains merely licenses the name from Richard Branson's Swiss company? That means that there's never enough profit to pay tax on, because the fee charged to license the brand is so huge. So cuddly Uncle Richard is essentially avoiding tax by salting the cash away in no-tax Switzerland. That's what we're giving degrees for. And we wonder why Britain's economy is screwed: we reward financial trickery, rather than, for instance, people who make trains.

So, hats off to The Hegemon for demonstrating that even major educational institutions are capable of parody and satire. It's a grand gesture, a sophisticated piece of grand comedy played out on an official stage. I'm actually really pleased: it shows that there's a living, beating heart here, one capable of witty commentary on contemporary society.

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