Short-lived campaign

March 12, 1999

Headlines this week heralding a huge rise in university numbers must have pleased the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, which announced a campaign to push for more places only on Friday. Until the devil of the detail became clearer, it was appearing the shortest-lived campaign in CVCP history.

The goal that missed

A select band of top-class universities in the United States, including Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pay $5,000 a year for membership of a coalition of institutions able to access "state-of-the-art information and knowledge" and "take collaborative action to advance ... institutional/organisational goals".

The National Learning Infrastructure Initiative also has one United Kingdom member. It is Thames Valley University, currently reassessing organisational goals after facing a Pounds 3.8 million funding shortfall and the resignation of its vice-chancellor.

Paging Armageddon

Lembit Opik, Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire, has "a big problem with asteroids".

An asteroid, Mr Opik warned at a late-night science debate in the Commons last week, could hit the planet out of the blue. "We could have as little as 20 seconds warning before being incinerated in the catastrophic aftermath of the impact and explosion," he said. "That is not enough time to say the Lord's prayer." Fellow Lib-Dem Adrian Sanders has more faith in modern politics, asserting confidently: "Someone will page us."

Delirious on the net

Anyone doubting the importance of screen breaks take note. A 30-year-old Roman man was recently hospitalised with delirium and hallucinations after spending a solid three days surfing the net.

According to media reports, during the 72 hours, he took only a few short breaks to satisfy essential bodily needs. Tonino Canterini, a Rome psychiatrist who teaches at the Jesuits' Gregorian University and has prepared a therapy programme for internet addicts, diagnosed the psychosis as "acute internet intoxication".

"Since 1996 I have treated half a dozen cases of this kind," he told The THES. "But this is the first who surfed for a straight three days before breaking down. There have been similar cases in the United States, but this is the most serious so far in Italy."

Wrong life of Brian

Brian Fender, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, has joined the honourable roll of worthies knighted by The THES.

While Sir Brian, as we dubbed him in a profile last week, has something of a ring to it, he remains, at least for the time being, plain Professor Fender.

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