Mine safety has come a long way since the caged canary and Sir Humphry Davy's lamp. But who would have thought that the coal industry would be clamouring for its professional rescue service to be trained at university?
Yet that is precisely what is happening. The British Coal Corporation has just asked Nottingham University's department of mineral resources engineering to establish the first distance-learning course for mines rescue station officers, the Rescue Station Officers Certificate, a two-year course for officers who want to move up the rescue service.
Course tutor Rod Stace acknowledged that "the course is not of a high academic standard". So why take it on? Dr Stace said: "We're very interested in the commercial aspects of the venture."
Nottingham is now looking at the possibility of establishing additional vocational courses for the mining industry.
Perhaps the money-rich privatised coal mines could prove a gold mine for Nottingham.