Laurie Taylor Column

July 25, 2003

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Dear Sir,

I am writing to protest about the treatment accorded to Poppleton in last week's analysis of university wealth. Let me begin by correcting two serious errors of interpretation.

1. In the league tables devoted to net assets you employ two principal categories: net assets in terms of amount and net assets in terms of percentage change. We do not dispute your decision to place Poppleton last in the first table with a total asset figure of £52.64. However, there is no reference to Poppleton in the percentage change league. If my institution had been included in this table, your readers would have been able to see that its present assets represent a dramatic increase of 22.1 per cent on the 2000 figure of £40.72. This makes us the 12th highest percentage change in net assets university in the UK. Not, I am sure you will agree, an achievement to be lightly dismissed.

2. In the section devoted to endowments, you refer to some universities as having successfully weathered the stock market storm. These "success stories" feature universities with falls in endowment value of less than 5 per cent. No mention, however, is made of Poppleton, where our bursar's decision to do nothing whatsoever with the university funds because of his heavy involvement in amateur dramatics meant that we were not exposed to the vagaries of the global stock market. The extremely modest 2 per cent fall in the value of our endowments over this period was entirely due to local acts of embezzlement.

I am sure you will agree that when such matters are taken into account, it is grossly inappropriate to characterise this university as "up the creek without a paddle". It is also intolerable to find my own salary of £312,000 described as "indefensible". Even a cursory analysis of our financial records would show that this sum represents no more than 20 per cent of the savings we have effected this year by closing down our three remaining science departments.

Yours sincerely,

The vice-chancellor

University of Poppleton

(signed in his absence by Mrs Dilworth)

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