The THES Diary

June 25, 1999

Gambling man

Announcing Pounds 2.5 million worth of cuts recently, Liverpool John Moores University vice-chancellor Peter Toyne quipped that one way of solving the cash crisis could be to gamble funding council money on the horses.

This week, confirming a set of redundancies at his university, he has another suggestion. "We are about to implement a pay rise for all staff of 3.5 per cent ... which will cost the university Pounds 1.5 million," he says. "If we weren't to pay it, our Pounds 2.5 million funding gap would be reduced, at a stroke to Pounds 1 million."

He admits this is not a serious suggestion, but adds: "What a difference it would make, wouldn't it?" Unsurprisingly, staff faced with redundancy seem less taken with the irony.

Ifs and Betts

Last-minute wrangles delayed publication of the Bett report, which had to hold a further meeting after producing its final draft.

One change stands out. The draft report recommended that all pre-1992 universities should re-examine their statutes "with a view to seeking approval for amendments which eliminate impediments to good management whilst maintaining proper safeguards for academic freedom and individuals", in other words making it easier to sack people. The final version not only adds "ensuring fair treatment for individuals" but refers to "tackling the difficult task of" securing approval etc.

Badge of honour?

There may be disappointment among Scottish students that the Scottish Parliament has not voted for the immediate abolition of tuition fees. But presiding officer Lord Steel has offered some consolation: a competition to design a "distinctive badge" for the parliament. The prize is a generous Pounds 1,000, so handy for paying those fees.

Yes, but...

Shadow further and higher education minister Tim Boswell made a great impression on the first day of his new job, giving the Tory keynote speech at the Association of Colleges' 16-19 conference last week. After a rousing speech, he was asked if the Conservatives still supported the Assisted Places Scheme. "Yes," came his reply. He failed to answer the follow-up question: "How could he justify huge subsidies for schools, but not for colleges?"

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