Cause for complaints

August 6, 1999

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals announced this week that, in keeping with the Dearing deadline, all universities now have student complaints and appeals procedures in place.

Eagle-eyed students, however, have spotted the small print in the CVCP's statement: "Six institutions have yet to respond."

That is about the number that the National Postgraduate Committee claims have either no complaints procedures or woefully inadequate procedures.

Luckily, the Quality Assurance Agency has come to the rescue with a proposed code of practice. Early drafts referred to students' rights in the light of the introduction of tuition fees. Interestingly, all such references have been removed from the latest draft.

Good news is no news Beleaguered further education leaders, wounded by regular naming and shaming of the sector's failing colleges, are resorting to the black arts of the spin doctor. The Machiavellian touch has clearly marked a recent missive sent to all college principals by the Association of Colleges' very own Peter Mandelson, Linda Butler. Director of communications at the AoC, Ms Butler warns principals that the independent Labour Research Department usually prepares a damning report at this time of year on "college deficits, losses in teaching jobs and increases in principals' pay".

In preparation for the negative press interest, she suggests: "It may help to release a good news story as soon as possible and

follow through about two weeks later with similar good news,

for example, about exam results." That should keep the press at bay, right?

Milking the millennium

Not so much a millennium dome as a moo-llennium dome. The Scottish Agricultural College's building design department has won a contract from the milk development council to look at low-cost housing for dairy cows.

The department, which is considering a plastic and geotextile structure, has suggested a millennium dome for cows with good light levels and a breathing fabric roof. It wants to hear from any product suppliers with appropriate materials. Calls from Greenwich welcome.

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