Education: The Izbicki Report

News From The Front Line of Education
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The Independent Online
Conferences set in Motion

The round of autumnal conferences has started. Down at Brighton on Tuesday, Professor Andrew Motion, our new Poet Laureate, stepped to the rostrum to deliver his latest opus, In a Perfect World, to delighted delegates at the Trades Union Congress.

In Harrow, the annual bash for Heera/Case - the Higher Education External Relations Association/Council for Advancement and Support of Education. The conference, once again supported by The Independent, took place at the local campus of Westminster University. When its intricate organisation was launched earlier this year, Carol Homden, the university's director of marketing and development, took charge. It was Dr Homden who had publicised Westminster's spanking new pounds 33m Harrow campus and knew its every nook and cranny.

But suddenly she was snapped up by the British Museum to be its director of marketing and public affairs. Her new challenge is to promote Norman Foster's pounds 98m redevelopment of the old British Library.

Is there any difference between looking after the imposing museum in Great Russell Street and the university's Regent Street headquarters?

The latter has 20,000 students on its books, while the museum has nearly six million visitors a year and around 1,000 schoolchildren almost daily. "There is the same blend of scholarly education," she said, describing the British Museum as "lifelong learning in action".

Warwick moves to Telford

One man was conspicuous by his absence from this week's other annual academic beanfeast. Graham Zellick, the vice-chancellor of the giant University of London, stayed well away from the committee of vice-chancellors and principals' do, which this year descended on the Telford campus of Wolverhampton University.

You might recall that Professor Zellick threatened to pull out of the CVCP if Diana Warwick, its chief executive, didn't resign. The reason? She was elevated to a Labour peerage, and he felt - as did many other V-Cs - that this meant a conflict of interests up with which he would not put.

The withdrawal of London University from its books would mean a loss of pounds 35,000 a year to the CVCP. If other colleges followed suit, it could face a major financial crisis.

Summerhill's autumn

A Sword of Damocles hangs over the future of Summerhill School. The 61- pupil school, founded 78 years ago by the legendary AS Neill, was threatened with closure following an inspection shortly before the hols by Ofsted.

Summerhill is to be inspected again early this term. Its solicitor has appealed against the "notice of complaint" to the independent schools tribunal, and an official protest over Ofsted's "quality of inspection and reporting" is being assembled by the school, headed now by Neill's daughter, Zoe Redhead. In the past, Neill himself was given six months to pull the school's academic socks up "or else". It survived. She has launched a Save Summerhill campaign ("Save" stands for Support Alternative Values in Education).

More information on 01728 830540 or:

A Daniel on course

Sir John Daniel, the Vice-chancellor of the Open University, is also one of his own 200,000 students. He is on a course called "You, Your Computer and the Net". He put what he has learnt to excellent use when he addressed the Heera/Case conference this week on the subject of international collaboration and competition - the development of a worldwide academic community.

And finally

At a recent higher education recruiting event in Athens, Bournemouth University was represented by a senior lecturer from the school of finance and law. She was approached by a "domineering father", a surgeon who had spent time in the US, who said: "My daughter is a straight-A student. If we were still in America, she'd go to Harvard. Is Bournemouth the UK equivalent of Harvard?" The lecturer's instant reply: "Does Harvard have a beach?"