No more will further education be the "Cinderella sector", delegates at the Association of College's annual conference in Harrogate insisted last week. Led by Lewisham College principal Ruth Silver, they claimed the analogy was inappropriate. Instead Ms Silver mooted an alternative - a tale of the underprivileged embarking on a journey of self-improvement, in which a scarecrow gains a brain (knowledge), a lion gains courage (self-confidence) and a tin man acquires a heart (personal and social development). All of which adds up to the much more politically correct "Wizard of Oz" sector.
Last laugh on Roger
Despite his departure in disgrace almost a year ago, former AoC chief executive Roger Ward was still centre stage at this year's conference, allowing Lib Dem education spokesman Don Foster an excuse for his annual Ward joke: God calls together Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Roger Ward, and asks them, as leaders of their communities, to break the news about the impending Armageddon. While Clinton and Yeltsin go about their solemn duty, Roger Ward gives his people a double dose of good news:
"First," he says, "I can confirm that I am one of the three most important people in the world. Second," he reveals, "I have solved the problem of the millennium bug."
UCAS on course
The University and Colleges Admissions Service is moving to smart new premises in elegant Cheltenham. It claims that the move is necessary because its workforce has expanded. But there may be a secondary motive - the new boardroom overlooks the racecourse.
"You can see the whole course apart from the last 300 yards to the finish line. Someone has inconsiderately built a stand there and it totally ruins the view," said a spokesperson.
Critics of university reorganisation have long complained of off-the-shelf degrees and a supermarket approach to learning. Now it is really happening. Soon after Lord Sainsbury's appointment as science minister, his family's supermarket chain is looking at students as more than potential shelf-stackers. Over the next three years it is to fund a fellowship and a number of research studentships in retailing in the faculty of business and management at the University of Ulster.