Sheffield steel

January 20, 1995

The barricades will be going up along the Eccleshall Road as Sheffield's two universities prepare to slug it out for the chairmanship of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals.

Nominations for this desirable post -- on offer again because chair-elect Brian Fender was dragged off the streets and sent to Bristol by the HEFCE press gang -- closed this week, with the four-strong field including both Gareth Roberts of Sheffield University and John Stoddart of Sheffield Hallam.

Completing the field will be Professor Fender's defeated opponents Peter Toyne of Liverpool John Moores and Frederick Crawford of Aston, running for the fourth time and fast becoming to CVCP what Jimmy White is to the World Snooker Championships.

Most betting is that, like the snooker championships, this contest will be settled in Sheffield. Professor Roberts can point to experience in the funding jungle as a past chairman of the UFC's Welsh Committee and a reputation as a tough manager.

Mr Stoddart has already run CVCP -- or at least that part of it that used to be the Committee of Directors of Polytechnics -- would have the right contacts to deal happily with any incoming Labour government and carries with him the baggage of the Higher Education Quality Council, clearly voted the lesser of two evils in last week's THES straw-poll of vice chancellors on quality mechanisms.

With 65 old universities and allied institutions among the 104 electors, Professor Roberts may start with a marginal advantage. Ballot papers go out next week to be returned to the Electoral Reform Society by February 13, with white smoke expected from the CVCP chimney on the 16th.

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