Fantasy Academic

Scott Free, Exceptional Fellow, Department of Projection and Economics, University of Bognor

Fantasy Academic is a game in which the number of people who can play is limited only by the number of true life academics in the discipline about which you wish to play.

Aims of the game

The object of the game is to select a 'department' of academics which will produce the most academic publications and hence get your research rating increased. The game allows any department to be created as long as all members are currently in work in a British university or other higher education establishment, and all members work within the same discipline, e.g., a quantum physicist cannot be adopted into a fantasy sociology department.

Rules of the game

1) Each player begins the game with a budget of 500,000; this must cover wages, administration, materials and facilities. A well budgeted department obviously leaves plenty of scope for holiday slush funds, departmental Christmas dinners and other morale boosting (See Section 8) activities.

2) At the beginning of the game each player must use their budget to fill their departmental positions, which are:

Head of department: must have at least a Professorship (worth 50,000, or 40,000 if female)

Two readers, (each worth 45,000 if Professor, or 40,000 if only has a doctorate)

Four senior lecturers (each worth 35,000)

Five junior lecturers (each worth 20,000)

The choice of members of your department can only come from teaching staff members of a British University or other British higher education establishment excluding, obviously, technical colleges. To bid for a member to fill your vacant position that member must be in reality in that position already, so a member of a department who is a junior lecturer at, say, Leeds University cannot be adopted as a reader in a player's fantasy department, regardless of how good or experienced you think they are. They must be adopted as a junior lecturer. Within a group of players an academic cannot be shared (except see visiting lecturers, Section 9), so Professor X cannot be part of more than one player's fantasy department. If more than one player desires to adopt the same academic then a system of bidding must be undergone to decide who will employ that academic. Unfortunately that academic is always proportionally worth the bid amount whilst retained within that department (see Section 5. Promotions, Hirings and Firings).

3) Once a department has been selected by all players, the next stage is to monitor your department's progress. This is done by keeping a check on how many papers, articles, books etc. that the respective members publish. Publication points are awarded on the following scale.


These are subdivided into:

Scholarly work. Although hard to define precisely, this category covers all work which is not a text book, but is aimed at other academics. Scores 4 points.

Populist Book. Easily recognisable as part of the general trend for higher middle brow approaches to difficult topics, 'A Brief History of Time' by Stephen Hawking is a prime example. Scores 3 points.

Text Book. Also easily recognisable, although scholarly works may become text books confusing the issue. Since Fantasy Academic is not retrospective, only books which are published, after the game has commenced, with the sole aim of teaching or as a set piece accompaniment to a lecture course are acceptable as text books. Scores 2 points.

Editor of Volume of collected works or Festschrift. These are volumes of collected works from symposia etc. and score 2 points.

Some players may wonder why Collected Works and Text Books are lower in points than the Populist Books. The reasoning behind this is simply that for the amount of work that goes into Collected Volumes and Text Books the return for a department is minimal. What do you think the people who award research ratings read?

Papers and articles

Papers and articles are worth a single point each regardless of length or journal prestige.

Publication points are extremely important in Fantasy Academic, since not only do they contribute to the research rating total at the end of the year, but academics (except the head of department of course) need to acquire a set number of points to retain their position.

Number of publication points required in a fantasy year to keep a position within a fantasy department:

Head: 0

Reader: 3

Senior Lecturer: 4

Junior Lecturer: 10

If for any reason your member of staff fails to publish the set number required by the rules then the member of staff must be dropped from the department (See Promotions, Hirings and Firings, Section 5). To avoid complications the time schedule of one fantasy year starts at the same time as the financial year: April 1st. This may seem peculiar, why not the beginning of the Academic year? The reason is that if you are unfortunate enough to lose a member of staff, then you should have sufficient funds to re-employ immediately (although see Cuts, Section 7).

4) Progress throughout the game

At the start of the game each player's department is worth a single research star. The maximum number of stars a department can have is five. This is the ultimate accolade for any department. In the short version of the game the first player to reach five stars becomes a centre of excellence, thereby diverting all funding and winning the game. To increase your research rating you need to accumulate points. These are awarded to your academics when they publish papers, books etc. (see above); and for their research potential according to their status. Sundry other situations may arise which benefit your points total, such as a good budget, a Nobel laureate or research of sufficient public interest to appear on the 9 O'Clock News (only BBC is allowable since it is sufficiently half way between tabloid and quality to be a reasonable judge of what sells ratings, and hence 'real' public interest, whatever that might be).

As scores increase, certain benchmark values will be achieved which will allow a research rating increase, and hence allow a player to employ more staff as the budget of the department increases. The rules for this are as follows:

Once a department has reached a bench mark a new junior lecturer may be appointed and the greatest point scorer of existing staff members from each level may be upgraded to the next staff level (see Promotion, hirings and firings, Section 5). This is beneficial since each staff member brings in 'kudos' points to add to the total number of points scored as follows:

All professors contribute 20 points per year.

All other readers contribute 10 points per year.

All senior lecturers contribute 5 points per year.

All junior lecturers contribute 1 point per year.

This is to reflect the impression of research potential given to research rating officials.

These points are added, along with publication points, to the points total at the end of the fantasy year and at no other time.

Increases in research rating are awarded as follows:

Points total Research Rating
0-499 One Star
500-1249 Two Stars
1250-2749 Three Stars
2750-4499 Four Stars
4500-6499 Five Stars

5) Promotions, Hirings and Firings.


When a new research rating is achieved a member of staff may be promoted. The rules to decide who gets promoted are quite simple. The member of staff who scores the most publication and kudos points combined in one fantasy year is automatically chosen as long as the number of publication points exceeds the value of the kudos points. So for example if Professor X and Junior Lecturer Y are the highest scorers in one year with totals of 25 each, Junior Lecturer Y must be promoted because 24 publication points easily outstrips the single kudos point awarded to a Junior Lecturer. Professor X will have to pull out his finger and get publishing. One further point: if the member of staff who is to be promoted was bid for (see Section 2), and has a value higher than that stated in Section 2, then their new value goes up proportionally. Thus if a Senior Lecturer with a doctorate who was bid for at 50,000 gains promotion then their new value (and wages to be deducted from the budget) will be 50,000/35,000 multiplied by 40,000.


If you have reached a stage where somebody has been promoted then you may need to fill a space, since no level of the department can ever go under the set number of staff outlined in Section 2. This occasion may not arise every year since a member of staff may achieve a meteoric rise through the ranks, but this is unlikely. To hire a member of staff it is possible to adopt someone from the pool of academics not already used in the game, or to employ someone who has just been fired. Immediate re-employment means that you must adopt them at their current value. If you wish to adopt them at the suggested value for an academic of their status then you must wait for them to be out of work for at least one fantasy year.


Always a sensitive topic, but when a member of your department fails to come up to publication scratch then unfortunately you will have to let them go. It would be gauche to sugar coat the truth so there it is, their services are no longer required. Of course they need to be replaced at the nearest opportunity to maintain your current teaching levels. See above.

6) Budgeting

As stated in Section 1 each player starts with 500,000. At the beginning of the financial year all wages (academic values) and other costs must be deducted from this value. The costs are as follows:

Building Maintenance and Security 20,000
Secretarial Staff 100,000
Materials and Practical Activities 5,000
Photocopying 4,000
Undergraduate Teaching and Administration 1,000

For every 10,000 in the black that a department manages to maintain, morale boosting points are awarded (See Section 8, Morale). The extra money is carried on into the following year's budget.

Every time a new research rating is added the budget for the department increases by 50,000.

If a department cannot meet its budget for any reason, then the department needs to apply for Central University Funding which can be achieved in one of several ways, as follows:

If the Department has produced outstanding work by producing more than its required publication points.

If the Department has increased its research rating.

If the Department has a member of staff on the Dean's Council. To see if your department has a member of staff on the Dean's Council roll a six sided die. If you throw a one then you're in luck!

If your Department fulfils these criteria then the Central University Funds will meet your budget this year, but budgetary requirements must be met next year. If unfortunately you fail to meet your requirements and also fail to get Central University funds then the Department must fold (but see Special Dispensations, Section 7). All members of staff must return to the pool and may be adopted by other players following the usual rules (See Section 5, Promotions, Hirings and Firings).

7) Cuts

In these times of Public Sector Borrowing Requirements a Department has to be prepared to make sacrifices for the good of the country and bugger education. At the end of every Fantasy Year the possibility and amount of cuts must be calculated according to the roll of a die. If a right wing government is in power a roll of the numbers 1-3 mean that your department must face cuts. If a left wing government is in power the numbers 4 and 6 mean that you must face cuts. To calculate the level of cuts you must roll a die and multiply the resultant number by the number of Academics within your department, and then multiply the product by 1000. This number is the number of pounds which must be deducted from your budget. If you fail to meet your financial requirements for that year then you must either apply for Central University Funding (See Section 6) or a Special Dispensation.

Special Dispensations

If you are a department whose discipline involves subjects of a sensitive nature which may be of interest to the Government or the Military, you may bid for special dispensations. Disciplines which may apply are:

Biochemistry, Chemistry, Physics, Any Engineering, Medicine and Genetics.

Arts and Social Sciences just have to lump it, or try for a government affiliated Chancellor, see below.

To bid for a dispensation roll a die. If you get a 1-5 then you are funded by the government for research program which will meet all budgetary requirements for either one through five years according to the die roll (a roll of one gets a one year research program, and so on).

The only option for Arts and Social Science departments is to adopt a Government Peer as Chancellor. To try for this roll four die. If you get four sixes, you're in luck and the government turns a blind eye to cuts in your department for ten years!

8) Morale

To add points to your publication and status points potential then you need to increase the morale of your department. To do this you need to budget well or keep your ear fairly close to the ground.

For every 10,000 pounds in the black that your department manages to maintain the points total increases by 10. This is to recognise the effect of holidays, parties, etc.

If you hear of a genuine scandal involving your academic then you gain 10 morale points. Examples of scandals/gossip which are admissible for morale points are:

The discovery of a carrier bag of 'appliances' in their study.

Degrees/Marks/Exams for Money/Favours etc.

Staff-student romance.

Some sort of corroboration is required to gain the points.

9) Advice and further ideas.

Playing the game is made easier if one player can act as an administrator and arbitrator, much like an education watchdog or advisory committee.

It is good practice to rotate your head of department every year or two years to allow publication breathing space for your overworked higher echelons.

The above rules are for the simple version of the game; obviously fantasy technical staff, secretaries, cleaners and so forth can be added in at the players' whim. Complexity is only limited by the players' ideas, leading on to fantasy university and of course a fantasy education system.....which doesn't require that much of a stretch of the imagination.


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assemblage 1996