The surprise in last week's communication from Charles Clarke, the education secretary, to David Young, the English funding boss, was not its contents but its brevity.
The annual grant letter to the chairman of the Higher Education Funding Council for England had been getting longer and more prescriptive with the passing years. In 1999, it comprised 43 paragraphs; by 2003, it had almost doubled to 73 paragraphs. But this year's efforts came in at just 20 paragraphs - three of which addressed "reducing bureaucracy and reinforcing local autonomy and accountability".
Surely attention should now be focused on a corresponding decrease in the running costs of the English funding council, which, the Diary notes, were £11.6 million in 1999 and have rocketed 45 per cent over five years to £16.8 million for this financial year.