Peep's Diary

January 4, 2008

GOOD SPORTS AND BELATED PRIZES

Lukewarm applause and a smile through gritted teeth is the usual response to missing out on a prestigious award - especially when you expected to win. Respect is due, then, to the unnamed institution that was in the running for the title of University of the Year at The Times Higher Awards in November, and had printed T-shirts celebrating its victory for the occasion. The shirts stayed under wraps when Exeter University claimed the award, but, in an admirable display of goodwill, they have now been posted to the victors.

ASSESSORS IN, ACADEMICS OUT

In every national stereotype there is, of course, an element of accuracy, and so it is with the French. Salford University informs us that one of its academics, John Keiger, is helping to devise the Gallic equivalent of the research assessment exercise. A recent report recommended establishing an independent national agency to evaluate research and teaching. While the saga of the RAE and its successor has prompted angry letters and probing opinion articles in The Times Higher , our French friends have responded in the way they know best. "In 40 of France's 86 universities, this has led to strike action," Salford's press release tells us.

STAR STRUCK

The Science and Technology Facility Council, already feeling the heat over funding cuts to astronomy and particle physics, now faces a global PR problem. Opponents of the cuts have set up a protest website at www.saveastronomy.co.uk , and a petition on the Downing Street website has gained 3,000 signatures so far. But protesters have been handed perhaps their greatest publicity coup by the United Nations, which has declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy.

BLOODY CONFUSING

Anybody using an internet search engine to look up Van Gore, vice- chancellor of Southampton Solent University, may be in for a nasty surprise. The good professor shares part of a name with Dr Vincent Van Gore, the possibly pseudonymous host of "real death" documentary Faces of Gore , which purports to show road accidents, suicides and murders, and is described by one online reviewer as "unflinching and repulsive" but nonetheless "boring".

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