The THES Diary

January 22, 1999

Conference off target A rare chance to quiz the Treasury on future public services funding was dangled before delegates to last week's Institute for Public Policy Research conference in London - and then taken away again.

Stephen Byers, booked to speak when chief secretary to the Treasury, was forced to cancel after taking Peter Mandelson's old job at trade and industry. Byers's replacement Alan Milburn was set to save the day, until he was struck down with flu and it was left to IPPR director Matthew Taylor to step up. The debate stuck closely to government target setting for the public sector, prompting one delegate to mutter: "If I'd wanted to hear about targets I could have gone to an Ofsted conference."

Foot and Mao problem David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, received a new label in a recent collection of essays entitled Student Protest: the Sixties and After. A piece by University of St Andrews lecturer Sylvia Ellis describes him as "a Maoist student-activist at Essex University". Mr Triesman is a little surprised at this tag, because the nearest he came to a little red book, he says, is having one thrown at him. He suggests "supporter of Michael Foot" as a more accurate description.

Keep up with the Jones It is chardonnay and calorie counting all round at St Anne's College, Oxford, which is hosting "An evening with Bridget Jones" at the end of the month. The "evening of words and music" (and dinner) costs Pounds 30.

Sliding scales As higher education unions gear themselves up for this year's pay round, the latest edition of the Oxford Magazine draws attention to the dire state of professorial salaries.

According to Hay consultants, in 1980 the old university professorial minimum of Pounds 15,4 lagged behind just two other "selected public sector workers" - a head teacher and a brigadier. By 1997, at Pounds 33,882, it had slipped to eighth position, overtaken not only by a head teacher, a brigadier, civil servant, major and schoolteacher, but, horror, "by a new university principal lecturer".

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