Laurie Taylor column

July 20, 2001

From: The office of the vice-chancellor

To: All members of academic staff

Some members of staff have apparently expressed concern about the showing of this university in the recent THES survey of the assets held by 170 UK institutions of higher education. It is even suggested that our modest reputation in the HE sector can only be further diminished by the news that we occupy last place in The THES 's table with total assets of £142.50.

As you will know, our Bursar is currently on extended sick leave, but I'm pleased to say that I've now discussed The THES 's findings with his energetic assistant, Mike Cornfeld, who assures me that they seriously misrepresent our financial status.

No mention is made in the tables, for example, of the value of the five portraits of vice-chancellors that hang in Poppleton Hall. Although mindless vandalism has reduced the value of two of these pictures, Mr Cornfeld "would not be surprised" if the other three realised "a pretty penny on the open market".

Mr Cornfeld also tells me that the net assets figure in The THES table surprisingly omits any reference to the value of the new bike shed behind Mother Theresa College, which was assembled last year as a practical project by our faculty of architecture. And while it is true that the net value of our artificial lake (nil) appears in the tables, no mention is made of the numerous fish that can be found in its waters. Average figures are notoriously unreliable in this area, but Mr Cornfeld suggests an overall fish price of £450.

One further misrepresentation needs highlighting. The "Days Cover" column in TheTHES implies that this university went bankrupt seven months ago. Mr Cornfeld points out that this picture is distorted by the decision he took at the end of last year to put the remainder of our reserves into what he describes as "an exceptional investment opportunity".

These adjustments would effectively lift this university from the bottom of The THES table into 163rd place overall (two places above Uttoxeter).

I hope this clarifies the situation.

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