Laurie Taylor

June 22, 2001

Now where are we now? Ah, yes. Item 6. Anticipating political initiatives. Is this you, Doctor Quintock? I appear to have mislaid the agenda.

Yes indeed, Professor Lapping. Now, as I'm sure we all recognise, this department has not always been sufficiently alert to government thinking. Our relatively low RAE and TQA scores are, I believe, directly attributable to our failure to keep abreast of political priorities.

Doctor Quintock, so sorry to interrupt, but Maureen reminds me that tea and biscuits will arrive very shortly.

Thank you, Professor Lapping. Let me draw attention to one way in which we might pre-empt possible government initiatives. I refer to a recent statement by the new minister for higher education, Margaret Hodge. According to press reports, Ms Hodge attended LSE during the 1960s and was disconcerted to find that although she was away from the university for six months with an injured back, nobody appeared to have realised that she was absent.

Biscuits, Doctor Quintock, biscuits.

So, what can we learn from Ms Hodge's revelations? Simple. We must be on the alert for any move from government on the issue of student absence: the introduction, for example, of a student absence performance indicator. We must know where our students are at every moment of their course. If Ms Hodge had been missing from this department for six months, would anyone have noticed that she was missing?

I'm sorry, Doctor Quintock, but I'm somewhat distracted by the biscuit situation. Who exactly is this Margaret Hodge you keep talking about. Is she one of ours? Would you like me to send her a standard warning?

I've already explained that Ms Hodge is the new minister for higher education.

Good heavens. Is she really? What on earth happened to that nice Tessa Blackstone?

She's no longer with us.

My word. That's sad. Not another of those damned back injuries?

You could put it like that.

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