Famous last words?

April 16, 1999

One hopes the University of East Anglia is dedicated enough "to the advancement of learning and the increase of knowledge" to look kindly on an article by Peter Womack, senior lecturer in English literature at UEA, in the latest newsletter of the Council for College and University English.

Womack chose to exercise his critical skills on a passage from the university's mission statement - which stresses commitment to the above ideals - and described it as "dull, ugly, vague to the point of evasiveness" and "in a quite precise sense, nauseating".

He also ventured even closer to home, attacking sentences written by his own department to the Quality Assurance Agency as "witless and barbaric".

Worse still, he said, the QAA liked them.


Britain's chief scientist Sir Robert May was as forthright as ever addressing a recent meeting of the Royal Economic Society.

Gushing in his praise of the Economic and Social Research Council - "the most important of all the research councils" - smiles became fixed when he added: "It's far too important a subject to be left to the majority of the kind of people who seem to me to inhabit (the community)."

There was also shock at Sir Robert's description of what had been done to fisheries. "It is the first time I have heard the 'f-word' used at the Royal Economic Society," whispered one listener. He did not mean fish.


Lecturers snatching a kiss from their colleagues under the mistletoe could cost colleges more than a few blushes following a recent legal ruling.

Worrying news has reached the Association of Colleges of an Employment Appeals Tribunal ruling which extends employers' responsibility to cover actions or behaviour occurring while off-duty staff are attending a social function associated with work.

This is likely to include "discriminatory incidents" at college Christmas parties, warns the AoC.


Sir John Arbuthnott, principal of Strathclyde University, who two weeks ago announced he will leave his post at the end of 2000, is already lining up his retirement activities. He will succeed Terry Coppock as secretary and treasurer of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, a grant-giving body for students and staff north of the border.

This could prove a lengthy commitment: Professor Coppock, who has held the post since 1986, celebrates his 78th birthday in June.

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