The THES Diary

February 5, 1999

The Net of temptation

Temptation arrived this month at Imperial College, London, in the form of a cash-for-qualifications offer through a mass email shot to students. The scam traders offered disillusioned students the chance to buy a degree from a non-accredited university. You have to admire their cheek - and their timing. January is traditionally the month when students are most likely to consider dropping out.

Vote for Jamie's gran

Students in Scotland like to pick a celebrity or politician as rector. Thus the list of candidates for the rectorship of Glasgow University includes Eastenders' Ross Kemp, comedian John Sessions - and Jamie's gran. Second-year student Jamie Smith believes his gran, Margaret Smith, who is nearing 70, would have student welfare at heart, would be more approachable than a celebrity and would offer students "a cup of tea and a chat and maybe a scone and some jam".

A Tory cry in vain

A sad, drab little meeting took place in an upper room in Charing Cross Road this week to preview Sir Graham Hills's new pamphlet From Beggars to Choosers - university funding for the future, which the right-wing think-tank Politeia is publishing on Monday. Sad because, after years of campaigning for public subsidies for universities to be channelled not through funding councils but through students in the form of vouchers, Sir Graham seems further than ever from his goal. None of those present saw any real prospect - and several in any case had a real distaste for the idea - of purchasing power being handed to students: vice-chancellors would not ask and the government would not give.

Politeia may be out of fashion but at least someone, in this case the indomitable husband and wife team, Sheila Lawlor and John Marenbon, is trying to drum up some education policies for the Tories - none of whose parliamentary team was present.

DTI's dull uniformity

After working hard on producing stark, colourful overheads to liven up a talk last week, Reading University's John Cantwell was dismayed to find them transformed by the Department of Trade and Industry into "dull", green, lifeless ones. Speaking at a DTI conference on the knowledge-driven economy, Professor Cantwell noted that in fact all of the speakers' overheads had been converted into the DTI's chosen format. "Clearly someone at the department is very keen on uniformity of style," he said.

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