Possibly the most contrived after-dinner joke made this week fell from the lips of Tim O'Shea, master of Birkbeck College, London. Professor O'Shea told a gathering that heads of London colleges wished to avoid the title of "principal" because they risked their deans coating themselves with honey and flinging themselves at them. Why? In order to "stick to their principals", of course. Nothing to do with the fact that the third best-paid vice-chancellor is principal of a London college. While Professor O'Shea ranks 83rd.