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This article is an opinion piece and should be taken as such. It is highly likely to be biased, but either the article itself or the ensuing discussion will probably be entertaining. Live! takes no editorial line on opinion pieces.

The Bureaucrats of NI

Mar 01 2004 14:07
Seb Tallents
Those who have applied for a PhD/MSc at Imperial can not possibly have failed to notice the new heights of madness that Sherfield has descended to.
you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest... with... a herring

In the name of efficiency, the internal and external application forms have been ?merged?. Thus internal applicants are asked, among other things, for a transcript of marks to date. Hang on...surely the Registeriat already know my marks?

After speaking to some very confused post graduate admissions officers the general conclusion seemed to be that, like English Language qualifications, these would not be required from internal applicants. Wrong!

I received an email (a week later than the one from the department acknowledging their receipt of the application form from the Registeriat) acknowledging the receipt of my application, and requesting English language qualifications and a transcript of marks.

The brief exchange of emails (reprinted below, recalled from memory and accurate in almost every detail) clarified the issue. Having being born in London, lived here almost continuously save the occasional trip to Zone 6 to visit France, and (nearly) completed a degree course, I would not need a language qualification. However I would be required to provide a transcript of marks:

?Although they're held here, if we had to chase them as well as deal with every other aspect of the applications process we would not get a lot done.?

Translated, what that means is ?Dance for me, Dance for my pleasure!? Perhaps you think I exaggerate? Well by all accounts it takes a week for the Registeriat to provide you with a transcript. They need to type your details into a computer. And then print out the marks. And then you have to go and pick it up. And by coincidence, the Registeriat is also where you hand in your transcript to be processed. So the important role the student fulfils in this complicated and time consuming transaction of paper is the ritual dance. This must be performed exactly to avoid the attention of the giant paper-eating monkey gods of Shefield. The student, with either hand, takes the transcript from the Registeriat official, performs a 360 degree turn, and hands the transcript back to the Registeriat official whilst chanting "Klaatu Barada Nikto" This pleases the gods of efficiency, who see to it that your paperwork is lost for the shortest period possible.

I give you the conversation in full:

  • Head Bureaucrat: Ni!
  • Bureaucrats: Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni!
  • Student: Who are you?
  • HB: We are the Bureaucrats Who Say... 'Ni'!
  • S: No! Not the Bureaucrats Who Say 'Ni'!
  • HB: We are the keepers of the sacred words: 'Ni', 'Form', and ?stamp?! The Bureaucrats Who Say 'Ni' demand a sacrifice.
  • S: Bureaucrats of Ni, I am but a simple applicant who seeks the PhD supervisor who lives beyond these offices.
  • HB: Ni!
  • Bs:Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni!...
  • S: Ow! Ow! Ow! Agh!
  • HB: We shall say 'ni' again to you if you do not appease us.
  • S: Well, what is it you want?
  • Hb: We want... a transcript!
  • S: A what?
  • HB: You must return here with a transcript, or else, your application will never pass through this office... stamped.
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Discussion about “The Bureaucrats of NI”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Mar 01 2004 18:58

I's a good job I haven't yet decied to apply then!

Mar 01 2004 19:17

Does this apply to MSc and Mres courses or only PhDs????

3. Hmmm   
Mar 01 2004 19:37

If having to obtain an extra piece of paper is enough to deter you then it probably is a good job you've not applied.

Mar 01 2004 21:28

Oh absolutely "hmmmmm"!

I'll tell you how Imperial can get the best and the brightest candidates:

We can create hundreds of hoops for prospective students to jump through. Yes, we'll have bureaucracy for our bureaucracy. Students can stand in dozens of lines, and wait for days on end for a response from someone who actually knows what they're talking about.

That'll weed out the wimps! Only those who really want to come here will get in, the truly dedicated and committed.

Or not.

Rather this reflects the frustration and impotence I'm sure everyone can relate to now and then, in the face of an apparently faceless institution; made more frustrating by the fact the solution seems as if it could be so simple.

5. Tim   
Mar 01 2004 21:30

Yup...That happened to me as well...

I received an email asking for a transcript from Imperial. After telling them I am from Imperial, they still demand a set from Imperial....How odd?

I also need to complete a "supplementary application form". There is a fantastic range of questions which replicate the original application...How odd??

6. Hmmmm   
Mar 01 2004 21:48

Not quite what I meant to imply Andrew.

Nonetheless, the path to a phd is littered with petty fustrations that incredibly manage to become mountainous at every attempt to solve them. If obtaining an extra piece of paper for your application seriously deters you then it probably is best you don't. But my statement was not entirely serious; I doubt people would actually be deterred by it, just irritated by the inconvenience.

Mar 02 2004 08:43


College dislikes undergrads, because we cost more money than we bring in.

College would much rather become a research institution.

So, the best way to do this is making all those people interested in research - PhD students - jump through hoops for no apparent reason.

Fantastic. And the new faculty building will surely improve things massively as paper forms get lost between Sherfield and <<insert short name for faculty building here>>.

Do they have a proper name for the faculty building yet? We can't refer to the bureaucrats as "Sherfield" for that much longer.

8. cynic   
Mar 02 2004 12:18

Why not call it the lego building. Its windows are more ridiculous than ugly..

Mar 02 2004 12:35

Slightly off-topic, but hopefully people who are/want to become postgraduates will read this...

Does anyone know what the deal is with repaying post 1999 student loans as a postgraduate student? I'm a first year PhD student and my stipend is over ?10000. I thought that as a student I would be exempt from loan repayments but despite numerous phone calls and letters (including official proof of student status) to the student loan company, they still want me to start repayment in April.

Has anyone else had this problem?

10. Seb   
Mar 02 2004 12:49


"having to obtain an extra piece of paper is enough to deter you"

No, it didn't deter me.

The point was that the request is ludicrous for internal applicants. Even the department and group admissions officers think this. There has been a sudden centralisation of the process, and the left hand seems to not know what the right hand is doing.

It's absolutely insane to be asked to go to Sherfield simply to touch a piece of paper for all of ten seconds.

It's doubly mad because the group and department already have my transcript on file.

They sent acknowledgment of reciept a WEEK after the application had been passed to the department, so they couldn't even accept the transcript if I provided it.

In the end, the admissions officer for the research group and the department decided that the whole thing was silly, and if they want to see marks from internal applicants they can rifle through the filing cabinet.

11. Seb   
Mar 02 2004 12:52

I'm waiting for the implementation of a new initiative to create yet more efficiency savings by centralisation...

How much space is wasted around college due to toilets? Surely it would be more efficient to centralise all the toilets into a single block in Sherfield?

Mar 02 2004 13:18

Seb, count yourself lucky you got a hello from sherfield a week after anything from the dept. I was already interviewed, accepted for the course and doing my finals by the time I got any recognition that my application existed from Sherfield. I do think that this whole situation is a little crazy though. But not uncommon in Universities. My flat mate had to find his application in place A and take it to place B in the admin at UCL. The deadline for applications was less than a week away and the regular system of moving paper from A to B was taking too long.

As far as I know if you a postgraduate student you are still in full time education and you do not earn income, you receive a stipend. So you ought not to be paying your student loan back. If you worked part time outside of your phd and obtained more than 10k per year, that would be a different matter. It wasn't a problem for me as a postgrad, but then mine was a 1998 student loan that was bought out at the start of 1999/2000 academic year.

Mar 21 2004 15:36

It's empty in the desert. Only the odd cactus as a signpost. Retracing the steps I took before somehow isn't as easy as I feel it ought to be.

There's a lesson in my tale of woe; hard disks are fallable. Back up your work.

14. Oasis   
Mar 21 2004 16:41

Many travellers pass through this desert. The journey to the place you seek is not one without trial.

Look about you and there are signs all around of fellow travellers. They can not show you the way but can catch you if you stumble or start to fall.

Closed This discussion is closed.

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