June 4, 1999

Umberto Eco, Italy's favourite intellectual, has been taken to task in the media over an article he wrote in Corriere Della Sera on biotechnology patents. Gilberto Corbellini, a distinguished writer on medical history and ethics, says that Eco claimed he had once been "cured" of flu thanks to penicillin, when, as every schoolboy knows, penicillin has no effect on 'flu, which is a virus. He also reproached Eco for writing that penicillin had been invented, while in fact it was discovered.


Liberal Democrat Phil Willis scored something of a political hit with Natfhe delegates at the union's recent conference, but not before raising a few eyebrows with dubious comments about women and shopping.

Mr Willis, the party's further and higher education spokesman, even won applause for the way he handled tricky questions about the behaviour of his Scottish colleagues on tuition fees.

It was only when Mr Willis good-humouredly mentioned that his wife had gone shopping that the politically correct Natfhe delegates, many of them women, began to shift in their seats. This became a stony silence when he said that any of the delegates who thought higher education could be delivered on the cheap should join his wife shopping.


The pressures on higher education appear to be taking their toll on the sector's leaders in Scotland. The Royal Society of Edinburgh was the venue this week for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council's annual sector conference, attended by the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals. A number of hacks ventured into the dining room during the lunch break, only to be ejected by an RSE apparatchik who said the delegates felt intimidated by them.

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