The THES Diary

September 18, 1998

BLUE PETER SPEAKER

Whatever happened to Ruth Gee, former head of the late Association for Colleges? After advising government minister Stephen Byers and signing up for an MBA, she takes the spotlight next month as chief executive of British Training International, holding its first major conference. Set up by the government a year ago to market United Kingdom vocational education and training worldwide, BTI has enlisted the help of former Blue Peter presenter Valerie Singleton, who will be a speaker.

NAME THAT OBSERVATORY

What's in a name? That question is exercising the minds of astronomers considering the fate of the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

The observatory is a defunct research lab in Cambridge and is due to be abolished next month. Some believe the name should be transferred to the University of Cambridge, where the Astronomer Royal resides. Others say it should be returned to its original owner, the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

We trust the debate will be resolved in time for the millennium.

PROF BEHAVING ODDLY

Sympathies to Portland State University, which last month was acquitted of violating any laws when it placed a professor on unpaid, indefinite sick leave with no hearing after he turned up on campus behaving oddly.

According to the United States's Chronicle of Higher Education, the said professor was "talking like a duck, stalking furnitureI making whoosh sounds and engaging in conversations that did not make sense". Full marks to the university for distinguishing his behaviour from that of most academics.

IF YOU DIDN'T LAUGH

Researchers from the Bristol Business School at the University of the West of England have identified "a particularly vigorous strain of humour" in social workers. They found that in two UK social services departments "social workers poke the finger of fun at themselves, rather than let other people do it", chuckling at the thought of working in one of society's most stressful jobs under constant budget pressures.

KICK IN THE AAAS

Colin Blakemore's presidential speech at the British Association festival of science set back transatlantic relations when he referred condescendingly to attending "the centenary annual meeting of our young daughter organisation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science". In fact, the AAAS is marking its 150th anniversary - although this puts it 17 years behind the BA, founded in 1831.

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