V-cs' line to MPs under attack

May 5, 1995

Vice chancellors have criticised the Parliamentary University Group, set up in November, for failing to improve links between higher education and members of parliament.

Kenneth Edwards, chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, has written to Baronesses Perry and Lockwood, who chair the group, warning that many heads are unhappy with its performance so far.

The group has made little progress towards its aim of heightening awareness among MPs and peers of universities' problems and achievements, he says.

The group, which holds its first annual general meeting on May 17, has collected Pounds 600 subscriptions from each of 60 member institutions, but has organised just three meetings, the last two of which were poorly attended.

Some vice chancellors have complained that they were expecting more from an organisation whose subscriptions had turned out to be Pounds 500 higher than originally envisaged.

Dr Edwards, who is on the group's steering committee, said there was a danger that many vice chancellors would decide to end their membership.

"We are still waiting to see whether the arrangements put in place by the group do really attract the attention of members of both Houses. I have no doubt that individuals who subscribed will want to know at the AGM what their money has been used for," he said.

Some vice chancellors have also been disgruntled by comments made by Barry Sheerman, vice chairman of the group and Labour MP for Huddersfield, portraying universities as "sleeping giants".

Mr Sheerman said the group had been plagued with problems in timetabling meetings to fit in with vice chancellors' and MPs' diaries, but was now looking at new ways of promoting links, such as work shadowing.

"Vice chancellors should know better than anyone that anything worthwhile takes time to develop. I still have very high hopes of the group," he said.

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