News that the University of Afpuddle is to give an honorary degree to Mosterton United's 14-year-old ballboy caused a stir in the academic world last night as a string of Vice-Chancellors from other less well-endowed universities angrily asked the obvious question: why did it take so long. A spokesperson for the Ballboys Matter Campaign - Ali Getit-Forya, whilst recognising the overwhelming merit of this particular case nonetheless wondered whether it might not be a matter of "too little too late". "How many thousands of ball-persons have been ignored up until this point and why does it take a global pandemic to make people realise the fact?" "Don't get me wrong Alvin is a great kid and he can fetch a ball quicker than a greyhound, but there's thousands like him out there and we won't rest until every single one of them has an Honorary Doctorate."
Academic recognition of this kind - once scandalously reserved for those who deserved it - has become increasingly common over the last two decades and, according to DHEFC [the Dorset Higher Education Funding Council, the average higher education institution now issues about 300 a year]. Even so, the award of an honorary doctorate has largely been confined to those whose contribution has been in the fields of learning, science, medicine the arts, and occasionally diplomacy. As University of Afpuddle Chief Librarian, Archivist and Head of Degree Sales Professor Infra Penny, says, "Up until about the 2000, the reward of a doctorate generally recognised academic distinction rather than popularity posturing or institutional virtue-signalling ... but of course one has to move with the times and with the reputations [and statues] of our 17th-, 18th- and 19th- century benefactors tumbling like Jenga blocks, its time for "jeunes hommes et femmes du peuple, plus attirants politiquement" to step up onto the empty plinths. I mean how else are we how going to get students to sign up here and hand-over their fees?" "Everyone needs a role model and there are hundreds of thousands of young men, woman and gender-fluid kids out there who aspire to be ball-persons and now realise that a guaranteed first-class degree from the University of Afpuddle [any subject] is the way to go".
Meanwhile in something of a backlash, retired Regius Professor of Classics - Homer Erectus - says that standards are slipping. "when I received my PhD in 1958, I had to submit a 30,000word thesis based upon 3 years of intense research. It was then scrutinised by leading experts in the field, public defended and finally approved. Nowadays 12 words strung together on a bit of paper suggesting Fred next door once rescued a cat is enough to get you an honorary degree - followed if you are lucky by the Nobel Peace Prize in a year's time". "Professor Thrupiece would turn in his grave - if he's in one of course".