Antithesis

January 2, 1998

Here is the news for 1998

January

An over-zealous Oxford student on holiday work in the university offices confesses he accidentally shredded the North report soon after its return from the printers. "I thought it looked OK to bin because all the figures were out of date," he says in his defence. Peter North agrees to start work on the renamed Millennium Report and sets a provisional publication date of 3001.

February

The mysterious disappearance of Baroness Blackstone is explained when Gordon Brown reminds the Cabinet of his intention to abolish Tessas.

CVCP appoints George Bain, new head of Queen's Belfast, to investigate setting a minimum wage for vice chancellors.

March

Sir Ron Dearing appointed to head an inquiry into the proliferation of government inquiries. He makes it clear that exhaustive fact collection will be essential. There cannot possibly be a report until after the general election of 2002.

April

The National Union of Students' annual conference votes for violent measures in fighting the introduction of tuition fees. Worried about the possible cost to the public purse, they agree to pay for police tear gas, truncheons and rubber bullets used in controlling the demonstrations.

May

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport changes its name again, becoming the Department of Media, Culture and Society in the hope of winning a 5-star rating in the next research assessment exercise.

Scottish secretary Donald Dewar announces a tax levy as a result of the soaring cost of the Scottish parliament building. UCAS collapses as the entire Scottish population applies to enter higher education on the grounds that tuition fees are cheaper.

June

Chaos as the Quality Council takes over the running of the World Cup. Nobody understands the rules, there is a shortage of referees and Scotland refuses to take part.

Following the loss of European Objective One funding for underdeveloped areas, the Highlands and Islands attempt to boost resources for their proposed university by seceding from the United Kingdom and joining the Czech Republic.

July

The government announces a minor error in calculating student fees, caused by someone temporarily forgetting about Scotland, Northern Ireland and England north of Watford. Students receive revised leaflets telling them the Pounds 1,000 per year charge should in fact read Pounds 101,000.

August

The long delayed Lifelong Learning White Paper emerges and is hailed by almost all as a masterpiece. The number of universities is to be doubled and 70 per cent of the gross national product is to be directed to higher education. There is to be an immediate cash injection of Pounds 40 trillion. But tuition fees are to stay.

September

Following the success of Cop Land, a fashion develops for films named after vice chancellors. The long-awaited sequel of Scott of the Antarctic appears as Scott of Kingston, Woody Allen remakes Zellick, there is a Brighton setting for Wat's on, Doc? and competition between Aston, Newcastle and Sunderland to provide the location shots for The Wright Stuff. Disney decide that PC Knight will make a better computer game, and Rod Stewart turns down the offer of Pounds 92,000 a year, personalised number-plates and a new earring for playing the title role in Fitzgerald. And book now for the Liverpool duet: Love Story and Toyne Story.

October

Academic enthusiasm for peer review evaporates when the government rules that in future it must be conducted by members of the House of Lords.

After Scottish MPs are asked to choose between sitting in Edinburgh or Westminster following devolution, the principals of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt take over Imperial, the LSE and UCL.

November

Bill Gates flies in for a top-level meeting with the Cabinet at Downing Street. He promises them that Microsoft will pour billions of pounds into upgrading the computer systems in Whitehall and that each minister will receive a Cray supercomputer on which they can play top-of-the- range computer games. One or two of the more cynical Cabinet members ask what Mr Gates might like in return. "Nothing," he says grinning, "I am just so glad to be of help."

December

Row as newly incorporated student union fat cats make "efficiency gains" by plumping for a dry end-of-term disco while awarding themselves millions of pounds worth of Christmas bonuses.

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