Leader: Openness is the best defence for probity

January 4, 2002

The Association of University Teachers has picked a good issue - the ethics of commercial sponsorship - on which their official candidate for general secretary can campaign. Codes of ethics in public life are all the rage - except apparently in Parliament. It is important to be clear. The row over the parliamentary commissioner for standards is not about MPs having outside interests but about declaring them. If it cannot be told, it should not be done.

The same should apply to sponsorship in universities. It would be good if universities agreed to use their muscle collectively to ensure that they were not played off against each other and that commercial sponsors paid full overheads and attached no strings. It would also be unrealistic with universities in their present needy state. Declaring interests (as journal editors are now trying to insist) and appointing a watchdog (as the AUT suggests) would be a respectable second best.

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