Pre-millennium tension has set in at Newham College, London, where staff have been told to take urgent action to avert the potentially catastrophic effects of a new strain of the millennium bug.
While computer systems have now been checked against potential breakdown caused by the Y2K bug, Newham's deputy principal, Peter Jones, has warned staff to "take action now" in anticipation of a previously unforeseen consequence of the move from 1999 to 2000 - widespread student absenteeism after excessive revelling over the New Year holiday, or "the post-millennium bug".
The college faces huge embarrassment if its students fail to return to their studies promptly on the first morning of the first term of the new millennium, January 10, when the funding council inspectors will be waiting.
"As you know, the inspection of curriculum areas will start immediately on that Monday morning," Mr Jones warns. "Inspectors will be expecting to see 'business as normal' and they will be looking at how we motivate students to return and to restart."
In a move that has done little to avert a sense of desperation, the college's faculty of access to learning will organise a raffle open "only to those students attending their first lesson back on time", said Mr Jones. Fifteen personal computers and "many book tokens" will be on offer.
Other elements of a five-pronged strategy include ensuring that lecturers brief students that a poor inspection result will "reflect on the course and them... they will want to be seen to be attending a successful college" and ensuring that students are set coursework that will be assessed only on the first day back in 2000.
Even students unlikely to indulge in the alcoholic excesses of New Year celebrations will be targeted, as local mosques have been briefed to "remind students of the importance of their studies".