Life is good at the young University of Saint Chinian in sunlit south-west France. All involved enjoy a happy time: some teaching is required, but research is entirely optional. The students too are a joyful group. For a moderate amount of study, which does not greatly encroach upon their leisure time, they are assured of a fairly decent degree and a job – possibly even a pensionable on – and have plenty of free time to engage in the serious business of hanging around, drinking coffee, playing pinball and fornicating.
However, this blessed state of affairs is under threat. The authorities in Paris have imposed a visit from an external committee of international experts to compile a detailed report on the academic quality of the university. The cold wind of managerial intimidation, so common in other areas of contemporary life, is about to blow through the hallowed halls academia. The serpent is insinuating itself into paradise.
A comic campus novel in the style of Malcolm Bradbury and David Lodge, Quality Time at St Chinian is guaranteed to raise a wry smile from anyone who has come into contact with the unusual world of academia, as student, teacher or (whisper it) administrator.