The Higher Education Funding Council for England, it appears, now has a metaphor policy. It has instructed its chief executive, David Eastwood, to declare unhappiness with "pockets of excellence" and a preference for "islands of excellence" because "it imbues them with a greater sense of isolation" ("It's clearly a place of excellence, but is it a pocket or an island?", 12 March).
What was wrong with the pockets metaphor? It correctly suggests that the old universities continue to "wear the trousers" and that institutions wishing to improve their ratings could "pick a pocket or two".
So why islands? Linking them to the mainland tends to be very expensive, or they have to wait millennia for tectonic plates to shift. Attempts to control islands provoke wars - think Cyprus or the Falklands - while others are susceptible to tsunamis (Sumatra). Some islands have prospered and become more successful than the mainland, such as Venice and Singapore.
Despite the intentions of Hefce and the Government, could it be that some "islands of excellence" will, like Manhattan and Hong Kong, outstrip their mainland neighbours through their enterprise and energy?
David Gosling, Higher education consultant.
Register to continue
Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.
Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:
- Sign up for the editor's highlights
- Receive World University Rankings news first
- Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
- Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Or subscribe for unlimited access to:
- Unlimited access to news, views, insights & reviews
- Digital editions
- Digital access to THE’s university and college rankings analysis
Already registered or a current subscriber?Sign in now