Laurie Taylor Column

February 21, 2003

"Universities UK (formerly the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals) is struggling to represent the interests of all its members since the publication of the higher education white paper" - The THES, February 14 .

Pardon me, Charles, but is this taken?

Geoffrey, old chap. Do sit down. Nothing like an Athenaeum armchair after a long day at the coalface.

Exactly. How's everything?

Not too bad, Geoffrey. Actually, I'm rather glad to run into you. I was chatting the other day with good old Michael and good old James. They were saying that perhaps all of us in the Russell Group should get together over lunch to talk about the implications of the white paper.

In what respect, Charles? I mean, there's not much to say except that we've got everything we wanted.

Quite so. But what was rather exercising them was the fact that even with this official recognition of our unique ability to conduct research, we're still rather stuck with the present UUK. I mean, why should we have to mix with the heads of institutions that in research terms are now on a par with colleges of higher education?

I take your point, Charles. But I wonder if now is quite the right moment to make a break.

In what sense?

Well, given the government's current emphasis on diversity in higher education, it might look rather bad if we publicly dissociated ourselves from a bunch of people who in every sense of the term come from such seriously disadvantaged backgrounds. Better to keep them on board and find some subtle way to emphasise their new status at the next UUK meeting.

What sort of thing did you have in mind?

Free meal tickets?

Perfect. Absolutely perfect. Large brandy?

Thought you'd never ask.

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