Redwood, the `vacant Vulcan'

June 30, 1995

John Redwood may be an intellectual heavyweight, but the former Welsh secretary is regarded more as a "vacant Vulcan" by further and higher education heads in Wales.

A former fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, he was known as one of the brightest of the Government's right-wing rising stars. But for university and college leaders in Wales, he has been more notable for his absence in academic affairs, making his alien nickname logical.

Vice chancellors and principals claim that in contrast to other former Welsh secretaries, such as Peter Walker and David Hunt, Dr Redwood has rarely ventured beyond the M4 corridor to discuss issues facing institutions.

Kenneth Morgan, principal of the University College of Wales, Aberystwth, said: "He has been completely anonymous. We have had virtually no contact with him at all. As far as Welsh education is concerned he really has been a vacant Vulcan."

Eric Sunderland, principal of the University College of Wales, Bangor, added: "In personal terms we do not know him at all. He has never extended to us the courtesy of a meeting. The overriding impression is that he has not been over-sympathetic."

When Dr Redwood has turned his attention to higher education, it has invariably been to complain about its failure to provide politicians with intellectual inspiration.

In a controversial speech to a Higher Education Funding Council for Wales meeting last year, he complained that academics had in the past failed to turn their minds to "the big issues of our generation". In a follow-up article in The THES, he said universities had "sulked through the 1980s", confining their political contribution to a "simmering row about the adequacy of the increases in their grant".

Whatever Tuesday's vote, Welsh education is unlikely to bid Dr Redwood to "live long and prosper".

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