IoPPN… a Virgo with “daddy issues”

What I’ve done this week, in whimsical mode, is to run a full astrological analysis of the IoPPN. I have to thank Michael Lynskey for helping to generate this idea and a drink, John Strang for another drink, and Chiltern Railways for cancelling the 2246 to Birmingham Snow Hill which generously donated some extra time to run the analysis.

First, I’d like to vouch for my credentials here. I’m not going to make this up. Well, insofar as it’s astrology I’d like to reassure my colleagues that I won’t be using this as a guide to decisions in the next planning round. However, the 15 year old version of me was more than a little lacking in confidence, and rather than doing the obvious thing (talking) I thought that mining the mystical secrets of the universe could somehow magically requite my love. She’s history now – turns out she liked me all along too! Anyway, that’s another story… and one you won’t be hearing here.  My point is I have a modicum of skill in casting a birth chart and this blog is based on the same position-of-the-planets “science” you’d get from heavyweights like Russell Grant, Mystic Meg or the glorious Shelley von Strunckel. And if you’re still not convinced by these credentials, I’m a Capricorn. Capricorns work hard, tell the truth and we don’t do hidden agendas. You can trust a Capricorn.

Before we get going, we have to resolve possible bones of contention. Obviously the Institute has history! Don’t we all? We could date it’s birth back to 1894 and Sir Frederick Mott, or the opening of the Maudsley in 1923, or 1948 when it changed it’s name to the IoP. I suppose we could even go back to it’s origins in 1247 as the Priory of the New Order of St Mary of Bethlem. My view, and I’m sticking to it, is that we ought to see these as forebears rather than the same entity. Philosophers might argue whether a broom whose brush and handle have been replaced remains the same broom. Mutya Buena might cogitate over whether the Sugababes remained the Sugababes when their original line up was replaced. But at least IoPPN was a new name.


The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience past(?) and present…

New name, new start, new birth (after New Labour?)  Anyway, for a bone fide chart we need exact place, time and date of birth. As we move back through the years all those become increasingly difficult to establish. So I based the chart on the IoPPN’s arrival (not conception) on 1 September 2014 in Denmark Hill.  And I chose time of birth to be a minute past midnight although maybe no one was around to cut the proverbial umbilical cord.

What I have here is a personality birth chart analysis. If it’s predictions you’re after – whether 2017 is a good time to write a grant… yes it is, at least two full FEC ones please everybody!!! – check the daily sun sign predictions in the papers. And it’s good news here, because the IoPPN is a Virgo. Virgos are analytical, intelligent, reserved, critical, helpful, conscientious. They like projects, they like plans. They can appear a bit aloof at times, private and sometimes overly critical. But at their core they’re little diamonds, intelligent and funny. And, as if it couldn’t get any better, because Virgo is an earth sign they’re most compatible with Capricorn and Taurus!


Now, for a full birth chart analysis we need to see where other planets (and the moon) were, as well as interpreting the interactions between the planets.  Let’s start with the moon: the moon represents emotional responses, unconscious pre-destination and the self-image. The IoPPN’s moon is in watery Scorpio. Moon in Scorpio people radiate strength. They are courageous and independent and seek out emotional intensity. Sounds good? Well, there’s a flip side. There is also an excess of sensuality (and even an unhealthy eroticism). Hmmm…

Of the “major” planets, Mercury is in Virgo signifying logical reasoning and practicality. Mars is in Scorpio, strong passions that are never casual or superficial. Saturn is also in Scorpio, suggesting emotional repression. But there’s also a light seasoning of Leo in both Venus (a striking, regal appearance that attracts others – like we didn’t know it?) and in Jupiter (a bit of the showman, rather proud and a need for respect from others).

More minor planets are Uranus in Aries (personal freedom is important), Neptune in Pisces (interested in expanding consciousness) and Pluto in Capricorn (part of a generation of intense social change… I think we’ve had more than our fill in 2016 already). There’s no space to talk about the Institute’s rising sign (Gemini – likes to get around a bit) or the positions of planets in different Houses. However, a brief word on the interactions between planets. On a positive side, the moon in conjunction with Mars and Saturn suggests an ability to control strong emotions in a helpful way and a strong sense of social duty. Mars conjunction with Saturn similarly indicates strength and patience. Jupiter’s trine with Uranus (no giggling) is good for organisation and a thirst for knowledge.


There are negatives. The most pronounced is an opposition between the sun and Neptune. And there are no two ways about this – the opposition indicates father “issues” that can lead to falling in with the wrong crowd and self-destructive habits. Fortunately, the strong Virgo sense of duty elsewhere in the chart pulls us back from many of the dangers here. But there are also a couple of nasty-looking squares to Venus (moon and Mars) – rather suggestible and a hunger for affection, and fixation on carnal desires and voluptuousness, respectively. That moon in Scorpio is to blame – we’re just too sexy for our own good!

Overall, then: slightly more feminine signs (Virgo, Scorpio) than masculine (Leo) and a balance of fixed (Leo, Scorpio) and mutable (Virgo), but few cardinal signs. A rather earthy (Virgo) and watery (Scorpio) combination. Or muddy? I think that’s the conclusion a frustrated 16 year old version of myself came to about the whole astrology malarkey… But if you’re still in to this sort of thing, put it all together, and the IoPPN’s a bit of all right!

The REF Olympics

Go on, admit it. How many of you had forgotten about the Olympics this summer? To be fair, there’s been a bit going on recently, including for me, which is the main reason I failed to post last week.  (Had I known I’d get more than a handful of emails berating me for that, I might have made an extra effort. Or, more likely, I’d have felt a little more guilty than I did.) Anyway, don’t worry, I’m not going to blame anyone for forgetting about Rio. We’ve enough on our plates, haven’t we?


The Olympics, at least in common wisdom, are a byword for athletic excellence, determination, hard work and success. Competing is an honour and in many respects failure at such a high level still constitutes a striking achievement. Like universities, there’s also a table. The Olympics medal table never really used to be a thing. But it’s a thing now, and in 2012 Great Britain came third. At least, like the REF, your rank depends on your chosen metric. On total medals GB came fourth after USA, China and Russia. And if you want talk GPAs; well, for 2012 first place is shared by Algeria, the Bahamas, Grenada, Uganda and Venezuela, all on account of having just one single gold medal each. And well done, North Korea (top 10)!

GPA Rank
Total GPA
1 Algeria 1 0 0 1 4.00
2 Bahamas 1 0 0 1 4.00
3 Grenada 1 0 0 1 4.00
4 Uganda 1 0 0 1 4.00
5 Venezuela 1 0 0 1 4.00
6 Switzerland 2 2 0 4 3.50
7 Dominican Republic 1 1 0 2 3.50
8 South Africa 3 2 1 6 3.33
9 North Korea 4 0 2 6 3.33
10 Norway 2 1 1 4 3.25
11 South Korea 13 8 7 28 3.21
12 Turkey 2 2 1 5 3.20
13 Hungary 8 4 5 17 3.18
14 China 38 27 23 88 3.17
15 Croatia 3 1 2 6 3.17
16 United States 46 29 29 104 3.16
17 GB 29 17 19 65 3.15
18 Kazakhstan 7 1 5 13 3.15
19 Czech Republic 4 3 3 10 3.10
20 Iran 4 5 3 12 3.08

The top 3 in medal “power” – those who faced the highest excess baggage surcharge for the metal work they won – in GPA terms came 14th (China), 16th (USA) and 39th (Russia) respectively. Russia there, showing kids it doesn’t pay to do drugs (at least in terms of GPA), now we know that the Russian athletics team’s urine samples were about as irrefragable as Andrea Leadsom’s CV.

GB (17th) has the same GPA as Kazakhstan – the country who gave us Borat (well, we actually gave him to them and I am not sure it was a very welcome gift). Above is the top part of the GPA medal table for you, GPA calculated using REF2014 rules, with gold weighted 4*, silver 3* and bronze 2*.

While I love watching almost every sport (apart from rugby), while I can get as competitive as the rest whenever there’s any sort of league table, and while I have no problem with winning (although I support Leyton Orient, so it’s a vanishingly rare affair), increasingly I can’t help feeling we ought to focus on the taking part bit just a little more. The Olympian rhetoric was always about taking part and getting on with the real stuff, not just getting to the top of the table.

Some years ago I led a research study funded by an international sports charity, that involves many of the world’s great sports women and men. It was a great project, evaluating the efficacy of charitable sports-linked projects around the world. These projects ranged from a boxing club in Rio de Janeiro to discourage favela youth from joining gangs, to an anti-depression intervention run through a Championship football club. I nearly froze to death at an open air ice rink in Berlin, but on the way I understood that ice hockey is probably the most fantastic spectator sport ever! On all of these projects, the disadvantaged young people were never likely to become Olympic medallists, and the benefits they derived from the projects came from actively participating in a team. They learned to have fun, they learned about themselves, they learned about others, and they grew. A very real type of victory for everyone…

Like the Olympics, I suspect for many the academic rhetoric has slowly shifted from taking part to winning. It’s the consequence of more than just tables of course. Tables mean funding, funding means prestige. But let’s just draw breath for a moment. Getting to the top of a table at all costs is a real thing because it seems that some departments actually chose to lose QR money in REF2014 in a bid to get a higher GPA.

Forget about the financial idiocy of that for a moment. What about the ideology? In the end, why do we do the work we do? I’d hope it is because we enjoy it and we think it’s useful. Useful, not to our own careers, but to others. If you want to win a league, become a footballer (although I’d recommend against joining Arsenal if winning the league is really your goal).

When you are fixated on massaging for success in league tables, reality starts to slip away rather quickly. They’re realists in the Alps; Switzerland haven’t declared themselves the 6th best sporting nation in the world, or pronounced Zurich as world leading centre for equestrianism (one of their two gold medals). But in North Korea they’re not so noted for their realism. In a nation where there are only 28 state-approved hairstyles, I suspect the GPA table is the only one they know about and maybe many believe they are world leaders. GPA, gold medals, ranks: you can spin anything you like… danger and bad judgment come when you begin to believe the spin. (There, I got in a sneaky reference to Chilcot too). Because reality is always hanging around in the background and has a nasty habit of not going away. And you can’t game reality.


Don’t misunderstand me, I like to dream too. And I admire the achievement of a gold medal. Stephen Kiprotich’s single marathon gold medal for Uganda was an amazing achievement. And I’d personally love it if Uganda (GPA=4.0) was declared a sporting superpower with all the cutting edge facilities, equipment, and a world-leading sporting environment you might then expect. It’s just that it isn’t.