Encyclopaedia Avalonia Vol. XV …
Some may think that a University is a large, government-recognised, higher education establishment, such as exists in Oxford or Cambridge. Such people may even be willing to swallow hard and accept into academic sisterhood the grandly-named University of the West of England … even though it was formerly just plain old Bristol Polytechnic. However, even such liberals baulk at extending a similar latitude to the University of Avalon (UoA), whose curricula bears no known resemblance to standard areas of study such as Mathematics, Geography or Chemistry … nor even to the somewhat suspect subject of Botany.
It is therefore all the more gratifying to UoA staff and students alike that their establishment was once the only listing under “Universities” in Thompson’s Directory phone book for the Somerset coastal area. Soon after this public relations coup – and it may be just coincidence – a part-time telephonist from Burnham-on Sea was appointed Professor of Terran Communications in the UoA’s Faculty of Epistemological Phenomenology.
Critics of the UoA, of which there are many, especially in Bristol, are scorned as illiterates by Avalonian academics. And with good reason, for the word “university” comes from the latin universus, meaning “turned into one (with the cosmos or universe)”.
On this basis the University of Avalon has every right to the high status of its name, since becoming one with the cosmos is the great ambition of all its students. Indeed, no one graduates from the University unless they have first achieved a measure a degree of success in this quest.
As to what constitutes the required measure of “oneness”, this is a topic of heated debate across the dreaming spires of Avalonia. The result is that no one so far has actually graduated – or at least no one retaining a sufficient grasp of mundane reality to tell the tale. The effect on the University’s post-graduate programme has been catastrophic. With no post-grads to teach, only the M.Sc. course in Zen & the Art of Fire-Raising has survived the axe, and even this has no tutor as such, but simply a mysterious facilitator known only as “the guiding light”.
Yet because it has not yet awarded any degrees – and thus has an effective failure rate of 100% – the University’s reputation for almost impossibly high standards is unparalleled (except perhaps in the parallel universe which the UoA’s Professor Barley – following his famous “2nd Cup of Tea” theorem – insists must exist). This reputation for academic rigour is another sore point with critics, especially in Oxford and Cambridge, but less so in Bristol, where they maintain a muted silence on this aspect of things, as befits their humble station in life.
It should also be noted that the University of Avalon is nothing if not eclectic. Indeed, although housed originally in just a small rural cottage, it sported even in those days a large sign proclaiming: “The West Pennard International Mega-Institute for All Aspects of the Material and Spiritual Universe(s)”. And since then, of course, the University’s range of academic pursuits has expanded considerably.
By now you probably get the ‘broad church’ picture, but if you don’t then you almost certainly live in Bristol. It’s unfortunate but someone has to reside there, and such simple folk are certainly the best qualified (because least qualified) to do so. For these Bristolean les miserables we will explain further: the broad range of the Avalonian quest for knowledge is such that it spans not only space, and not only time-past and time-present, but also time-future.
To illustrate the point let us pause here – in this exact chrono-spot of the space-time continuum – to refer the reader to one of the many bodies affiliated to the UoA, namely R.O.R.E.T.T – the Reading Organisation for Research into Elementary Time Travel [see here].