The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn

Colin Dexter


The Foreign Examinations Syndicate

It was a fine summer afternoon in the south of England. A meeting was taking place in a large, comfortable room in Oxford. It was a meeting of the members of the Foreign Examinations Syndicate.

The members of the Foreign Examinations Syndicate were twelve people from different colleges of Oxford University. Each person had an important job in their own college and each of them was an expert in a different subject. Six times every year, they met together to discuss the Syndicate's examination policy - the way that the examination system should work. The meetings were always held at the Syndicate's headquarters, a large old building in a quiet road in the northern part of Oxford.

The members of the Syndicate were called Syndics. All twelve of them were at the meeting that afternoon. And, as usual, a thirteenth person was there too - Dr Tom Bartlett, the Administrator of the Syndicate.

Dr Bartlett was not a Syndic. He was a member of the Syndicate's permanent staff. He had a different kind of job from the other people in the room. Their work for the Syndicate was only a small part of their lives. Most of the time, they taught students in the colleges of Oxford University. Bartlett worked for the Syndicate all the time - that was his only job.

There were other permanent members of the Syndicate's staff. They worked for Dr Bartlett and, like him, they had offices in the Syndicate building. But only Dr Bartlett took part in the meetings of the Syndics.

The reason for the meeting, that fine summer afternoon, was to appoint a new member of the permanent staff. This person would work for Dr Bartlett at the Syndicate's headquarters. He or she would be someone who had studied at a university - a graduate. The new member of staff would replace a man called George Bland. Bland had left his job a few months earlier and had gone to work in the Government Education Department of Al-jamara, a small country in the Middle East.

That afternoon, the twelve Syndics and Dr Bartlett had interviewed five people. The interviews had taken three hours, and now the thirteen people in the large, comfortable room had to decide who was going to get the job.