The University of Bliss

by Julian Stannard

British universities once enjoyed an enviable reputation. Then the political class introduced fees, and in came corporate fixers, accountants, branding experts, those who salivate before the market. Hardnosed managers cut posts and salaries: why not put those bumbling professors on zero-hour contracts and get them to do a vast amount of unpaid work?

Now in 2035 at the University of Bliss in the south of England, the dead hand of bureaucracy smothers all intellectual endeavour. An unashamedly corporate ideology holds sway, thinly veiled by ubiquitous rainbow washing and tokenistic gestures towards moral and spiritual values, the environment, and mental wellbeing. Cue for poets Tristan Black and Harry Blink and charming if duplicitous post-structuralist Humph Lacan to fight back. But is it too late to save the university?

The University of Bliss is a spoof, a satire, a cri de coeur—Evelyn Waugh on acid. And of course, any similarity to actual persons, living, dead, or merely soulless, is purely coincidental.


“Julian Stannard lampoons the pompous managerialism of university life with wry wit and mischievous topspin. This is a knockout satire of a dystopian present, and an inmate’s revenge, a last laugh.”

—Rónán Hession, author of Ghost Mountain

The University of Bliss is stunningly funny. Its witty, acerbic humour places it in a class well beyond the campus novels of the twentieth century. This is no revisitation of the 1960s; it is a revitalization in the terms of 2035, where gender non binary education is branded for sale to the socially disadvantaged. The familiar university hierarchy, vice-chancellor, dean, professor, is all there, but this is supplemented by a brilliant cast of consumer grotesques worthy of Charles Dickens each one of whom is struggling to make money out of their paying customers—the students. The characterisation is sharply observed and convincingly recorded; the narrative is mordant in such a way that image and idea tumble together in a vortex of comic misassociation. University life is infused with the ideas and dogmas of commercial speculation. A few brave souls rebel but are sent for rehabilitation. The brilliant and energetic surface of the novel floats bouyantly on the progressive depletion of academic integrity. The darkness is there but it never extinguishes the human vitality and the comic exuberance of this novel.”

—Roma Tearne, author of TRACe: The Museum of Memory

“Fearless, feisty and laugh-out-loud funny, The University of Bliss conjures a dystopia that may be with us sooner than we think. This is a must-read for anyone who’s ever studied or worked at a university, or is even thinking about it. In two words: hilariously brilliant.”

—J.W. Wood, author of Six Pack

The University of Bliss decries the shambolic, slapstick shitshow that is higher education with ludicrous delight. Stannard writes with a delicious cynicism that is as poetic as it is unapologetic, offering an inside glance at a system wrenched from the realm of public good by free enterprise, which preys on diversity, gorges on free thinking and wraps a bureaucratic straight jacket around its academics, who are squeezed until barely alive.”

—Harry Gallon, Every Fox is a Rabid Fox

Julian Stannard has written several monographs and published nine collections of poetry; his latest being Please Don’t Bomb the Ghost of My Brother (Salt, UK, 2023). He is a Reader in English and Creative Writing at the University of Winchester (UK). He used to teach at the University of Genoa, and Sottoripa: Genoese Poems—a bilingual publication—was published by Canneto in 2018. He has been the recipient of Bogliasco and Hawthornden Fellowships and his work has been nominated for Forward and Pushcart Prizes. He has received the International Troubadour Prize for Poetry and in 2024 he was awarded the Lerici Anglo-Liguria Prize for his contribution to Italian letters. Short fiction has appeared in Exacting Clam. His website is

pub date: 2024-12-03
$21.95 | 192 pages
isbn: 978-1-963846-07-2 (paperback)