Fancy a job as a vice-chancellor? It's easy - as long as you've got the words Southampton University on your curriculum vitae. A growing list of new vice-chancellors cut their teeth at the university: Eric Thomas, who now heads Bristol University; Peter Gregson vice-chancellor at Queen's University Belfast; and Michael Arthur, who has just taken the helm at Leeds University. It seems the university is even succeeding in rocketing women to the top: Kate McLuskie, its deputy vice-chancellor, has recently been appointed director of the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford. Is it something in the water at Southampton? Because surely it can't be relevant that Howard Newby, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the body that holds the purse strings of UK universities, used to be the vice-chancellor of that very university?