Education: The Izbicki Report

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Good as Gould

You will all be delighted to learn that Bryan Gould, the chap who might well have been leader of the Labour Party had he not packed his bags and scarpered back to New Zealand, has been re-appointed as Vice-chancellor of the University of Waikato for a second five-year term. But it wasn't all plain sailing. Far from it. Voices were raised during a university council meeting that dragged on and on. Some of the Kiwi council members felt Professor Gould was absent too often. One of them, Sir Ross Jansen, objected to the Chancellor's unilateral decision to renew the contract. Others, including of course the Chancellor, felt he rightfully possessed delegated authority to renew a contract.

What is it with these governors? Do they really believe a Vice-chancellor should be stuck with superglue to his desk and never attend meetings, never sound the trumpet for his university abroad? Anyway, the matter was resolved "by a majority vote". But there was no salary increase. As the confidential minutes put it so quaintly: "The current remuneration package is to continue until a new package has been developed within a framework of approved council policy."

Ah, the delights of the English language stretch across the globe.

Royal purple madness

The Royal Family's "purple secret", the nasty disease called porphyria portrayed so vividly by Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George seems to have affected a wide spread of royals, according to the latest academic research. The disease can explode into just about anything, from blistering skin and lameness to mental derangement. The "mad" King George III was a porphyria sufferer, as betrayed by his tell-tale purple urine. Now John Rohl, until recently a historian at the University of Sussex School of European Studies, and eminent British geneticists Martin Warren and David Hunt, have taken a closer look at some of our long-dead royals and come away with some of their DNA.

Professor Rohl's intricate research found three royals with porphyria in their veins. First was Charlotte, Queen Victoria's grandchild and Kaiser Wilhelm's sister. She suffered abdominal pains, limped badly, had a face covered in blisters and passed dark red urine. Rohl found similar symptoms referred to in the correspondence of Vicky, Queen Victoria's daughter and Charlotte's mother. Charlotte's daughter, Feodora, was another sufferer. It took the three researchers until 1997 to gain permission to exhume Charlotte. They took away a scraping of her bone marrow, which showed her to have had the disease. William of Gloucester, the Queen's cousin, who died in a plane crash in 1972 also had it. It all began, it appears, with Mary Queen of Scots (above) and James I, her son, whose urine he described as "the colour of Alicante wine". Now, if you are still feeling reasonably fit and wish to learn more, the three researchers have produced a book aptly titled: Purple Secret - Genes, "Madness" and the Royal Houses of Europe (Corgi paperback pounds 7.99; Bantam hardback, pounds 16.99).

The tuck-shop tycoon

During his final year at Gaynes School, a comprehensive in the London borough of Havering, Ewan Clarkson set up and managed a company called Little Treasures.

It was part of the Young Enterprise scheme and was such a financial success that he and his fellow student directors not only won a number of awards and prizes but received an invitation to No10 for tea and crumpets. The reception was held to encourage youngsters to become "tuck-shop tycoons" and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was enthusiastic.

"Here's a young guy who is willing to take a few risks and do well for himself," he announced.

Well, Ewan took one further risk. He enrolled at City University's Business School for a BSc course in business studies and, once again, it paid off. At 19, he became the youngest winner of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Leaders of Tomorrow award - a pounds 3,000 laptop and a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip to New York to shadow PwC's chief executive, Jim Shiro for a day.

A proud Leslie Hannah, dean of the Business School, said Ewan was a "born entrepreneur".

And Professor Hannah added: "Some say entrepreneurs are born not made but Ewan has had the good sense to see that a little extra training does not come amiss."

Book a book fair

Isn't it simply awful to see books thrown into skips? I make a point of never chucking away a book. As a result, I have so many that some rooms in my house are a mess.

But now I know what to do. I shall donate them to the National Trust appeal for books to be sold at some 30 of the organisation's properties around the country to raise money for urgent conservation projects. They include; Castle Ward in Northern Ireland, Erddig and Plas Newydd in Wales, Castle Drogo in Devon and Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire.

Last year's National Book Fair raised pounds 14,000 and helped restore a number of historic heirlooms, including a Cromwellian leather coat at Baddesley Clinton and a spiral staircase at Oxburgh.

So, if you have any books to spare, Suzanne Hood-Cree (01373 828643) will tell you how to go about off-loading them. After all, it is supposed to be National Reading Year.

John Izbicki