Education: The Izbicki Report: The misery of ethnic prejudice

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Ethnic prejudice

The human slaughter in Bosnia, East Timor, Northern Ireland and elsewhere, all because of religion or the colour of skin, is sickening. So is the "war" now being fought in supermarkets on both sides of the Channel over a rump steak or two.

Fear no more - academics are putting ethnicity under the microscope. The University of Bristol has opened a Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship under Tariq Modood, its professor of sociology, politics and public policy.

Now, you'd think academics would rise above the ignorance of racial prejudice. Wrong. The centre's first report, published last week, dealt with Ethnicity and Employment in Higher Education, and found that a quarter of all ethnic minority staff at our universities and colleges have experienced some form of discrimination and one in five came up against harassment from colleagues and students. The report, of course, failed to name the culprits. Why not? If chief inspector Woodhead is capable of naming and shaming schools, why not name and shame those individuals who fail to meet the standards expected of academe? Although the centre is new, Bristol University has conducted studies in ethnicity since 1970, when it launched a MSc course in ethnic relations. Trust William

News that Prince William has broken with royal tradition and chosen Edinburgh University for a history of art degree filled me with pleasure. It is good not only to see a royal picking a Scottish university and snubbing the more usual Cambridge, but also going for one that is not top of the bunch in that subject. But Edinburgh's history of art is "highly satisfactory" - the Scots equivalent of 21 out of the maximum score of 24. It places Edinburgh 16th in the ratings in this field.

So who comes top? An inspection by the Higher Education Funding Council (England) marked University College London at 24 out of 24 for its history of art. It gave the same top score to the School of Oriental and African Studies and to dear old Birkbeck College. So why didn't wee Willie choose one of these? Could it be because they are all in London and he wanted to escape the royal clutches? No one at Edinburgh will force the lad to go fox-hunting, that's for sure.

Next in line with 23 out of 24 comes the Courtauld Institute of Art (London), as well as Nottingham, Reading - and Oxford Brookes. Cambridge, along with six others, received 22 out of 24. You may now check these before making your choice.

It's all in a new book, Best in University and College Courses, which not only covers all subjects assessed, but also provides pen portraits of each institution to help you make the right choice. It's by Brian Heap published at pounds 12.99 by Trotman, 2, The Green, Richmond, TW9 1PL.

Here is the news

University chancellors come in all shapes, sizes and professions. Up at the University of Northumbria there's Lord Glenamara - the former education secretary Ted Short. There's even a former actor-manager who used to drop his pants in Whitehall farces - Brian (now Lord) Rix who is Chancellor of the University of East London. Practically all the royals hold the position but I shall mention only one: The Princess Royal. She is the hardest-working and most professional of them all and is Chancellor of the giant University of London.

Now, at last, a fellow journalist has made it: newscaster Trevor McDonald this week became Chancellor of South Bank University. During his inauguration at Southwark Cathedral, a precious jewel of London churches, he reminded us of the university's original raison d'etre. It was founded in 1892 to promote "the industrial skill, general knowledge, health and well-being of young people from the poorer classes (including) general rules of the arts and sciences and practical application of such rules to any handicraft, trade or business." Most former polys had similar ideals. Alas, a few appear to have ignored them in their eagerness to ape the "older" universities. Sir Trevor did well to revive that old mission.

Dearing's back

Spare a thought for poor Ron Dearing. After producing his mammoth report on higher education, he has now been asked by no less a body than the Synod to probe the practice of Christian values in schools.Lord Dearing hopes to deliver his report to the Church Commissioners in 18 months. He is bound to look to the Standing Conference of Principals for guidance, as 10 of its 37 member colleges of higher education are Christian foundations. I nipped down to Brighton earlier this week for SCOP's annual conference and found that, not only do these colleges churn out a goodly proportion of our teachers, one in four of the students take degrees in such subjects as music, art and design, sculpture, fashion, media and the performing arts. This is especially interesting because Chris Smith, Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, told a SCOP dinner that over the next few years, 50,000 new skilled jobs would be needed by the creative industries.

Farewell to Barry

It was with the utmost sadness that I learned of the sudden death of a friend, Barry Jackson, who for the past six years had been director of corporate affairs at the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals.Barry did much to help and advise those in the university sector and the media world. He launched a useful computer aid for journalists called Expertnet. Hacks needing a story on, say, the millennium bug, could contact the CVCP with questions and a deadline. These would be sent to every UK university and eminently quotable authorities would respond.

Barry was an exceptionally kind man and always cheerful. His colleagues at the CVCP are naturally devastated, and he will be remembered with great affection. His funeral, on 12 November, is at the Golders Green Crematorium (3.15pm). No flowers.

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