Some vice-chancellors might use a spot on a public panel alongside Sir Howard Newby, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, as a chance to do some thorough sucking up. But not Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of Exeter University, who took the stage with Sir Howard at a meeting of the Higher Education Regional Development Agency for the South West last week. Professor Smith invited the audience to vote on the region's priorities using electronic handsets - a sort of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? quiz game for the research world. But he explained that Sir Howard would have some problems if he tried to do the quiz alone.
"Would Howard trust the audience to help him? Or indeed would he find a friend to phone?" Professor Smith inquired. Ouch. Is Exeter really so sure its future funding is in the bag?