Rate my SCR!

Photo Nicholas Laughlin via Flickr

I *really* hope this will turn into a popular strand on the blog.

While ‘enjoying’ a vegetable moussaka the other day in Roehampton’s near-empty senior common room, I was struck by the great variation in staff facilities across the universities I have worked at in my career so far.

When I worked at the University of Sheffield, scarcely a week went by without at least one visit to ‘Sticky House’ (Staff House) for a meat and potato pie followed by one of the unctuous steamed puddings -with custard, of course,- that gave it its nickname. But the writing was already on the specials board. Staff House soon closed. By the time I moved to the University of Manchester in 2002, it was clear that the rot had already set in. What currently purports to be Manchester’s Senior Common Room is ‘a deli style operation’ (staff canteen) where you can, at most, get a bowl of thin, lukewarm soup. Not the kind of sustenance to support serious thinking or high level research.

No. 5 Abercromby Square, University of Liverpool seemed a welcome return to proper staff dining – a downstairs bar and coffee shop and an upstairs staff dining room serving reasonable fish, chips and mushy peas. Soon, of course, words like  ‘pannini’ and ‘bistro’ were being bandied about. The downstairs bar now only serves coffee, tea and soft drinks. Upstairs at no. 5 Liverpool academics are now threatened with something called ‘beef tagine’. The rumour mill suggests that the whole establishment soon might be threatened with a fate worse than death, conversion into another one of Liverpool’s empty ’boutique’ hotels.

The SCR is an institution under siege but pockets of resistance remain, even outside the oak-panelled rooms of Oxbridge colleges.

The University of Reading’s SCR website leads the way. Not only does it have a ‘Wine Shop’ and a ‘Wine Cellar’ but also offers ‘tutored staff wine tastings’. Top of the pile, though, must be the Royal College of Arts’ Senior Common Room Billing itself as ‘one of the best kept secrets in London’, the RCA SCR offers staff ‘a delicious three-course meal at lunchtime’ and a ‘lounge area’ to loosen your waistband in afterwards.

These are just a few examples. There must be other academic food heroes out there, even if in the UK most HEIs can’t match the University of Hong Kong’s three staff restaurants offering spectacular views of Victoria harbour.

Let’s hear those nominations!

Published in: on February 7, 2010 at 6:05 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Staff at Birkbeck used to muck in with the students in the canteen, as I recall.

    I suppose the Cambridge University Library tearoom counts as an SCR of sorts for Cambridge historians, although it doubles as a kind of dating agency for geeky undergraduates. (ahem)

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