The THES Diary

October 30, 1998

A keynote of optimism

Further education's fortunes appear to be looking up again. Education secretary David Blunkett is to give a keynote address at the annual conference of the Association of Colleges in Harrogate on November 26. It has not escaped notice that this is when he is due to announce funding settlements for higher and further education for 2000-2002. "Obviously we are optimistic about what he's going to say," says director of policy John Brennan. Let's hope by then the AOC has a chief executive to hear the good news.

Ticking off A student at Strathclyde University has had his grant form returned by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland because he failed to tick the box saying he was exempt from a parental contribution. No matter that he is 70 and last attended school in 1943. Strathclyde's student finance officer, Lin McLean, said when she raised the "daftness" of the question, the SAAS informed her: "Being 70 did not remove the requirement to fill the form in properly." Nice to see such concern with quality from the organisation responsible for financial chaos last year when computer problems delayed awards to thousands of students.

Watch this space Next week is the deadline for the Open University's Colin Pillinger to secure sufficient funding for his Beagle 2 lander that he hopes to send to Mars in search of life. He needs to find an estimated Pounds 25 million for the lander, plus a further Ecu8 million towards the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission. Those in the know think it's a long shot and that Beagle 2 may finally run out of steam. That's unless he can drum up the money from somewhere. ESA meets on November 2...

Campus sights You've seen The House, the behind-the-scenes look at the Royal Opera House, which appeared to disintegrate in rows and financial turmoil. Now brace yourselves for The University. Cameras are to follow a group of undergraduates at the University of Southampton as they come to terms with their first year on campus. The series is scheduled for transmission next October.

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