Education: Word of mouth

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The Independent Online
Ross strikes again

When the School of Slavonic and East European Studies opened The Hammer and Sickle, its appropriately named bar, the other week, it called on Jonathan Ross, the TV personality, to perform the ceremony. Ross not only recalled with affection his time at this, one of London University's most friendly colleges, but marked his status as its "most infamous graduate" by buying everyone a drink (Russian and East European beers and vodkas virtually on tap).Strange how very few universities make equally positive use of their alumni.The exceptions seem to prove the rule: there's the University of Glasgow,whose Rector is the splendid actor Richard Wilson, who has agreed to appear in a short but valuable video urging everyone to save energy on campus. Another famous actor-Rector, Stephen Fry, agreed to fly to the University of Dundee shortly after filming Wilde to take an active part in a seminar on the decadence of the 1890s. Then there are those loveable peers who regularly lend support to their universities: Lord Attenbor-ough, Pro-Chancellor of Sussex University; Lord Glennamara, Chancellor of the University of Northumbria; and Lord (Brian) Rix, Chancellor of the University of East London.

Pizzas for Pollock

A recent survey by the Edinburgh University students' association showed that one in ten undergraduates considered withdrawing from studies owing to financial hardship. By the end of last year 62.7 per cent owed an average pounds 2,606 each. The Government remains unmoved by all such evidence - and it abounds both north and south of the border. I realise that pizzas cannot even begin to fight so serious a problem but they might help to make life a little more comfortable for students. Those in and around Pollock Halls, the university's residential block, may now avail themselves of an on- the-spot pizza take-away and delivery service. A pizza oven has been acquired and its output devoured for the past few weeks by students visiting the South Hall bar. Students will be able to top up their all-too meagre income with part-time jobs making pizzas - and delivering them to those 3,000 colleagues in the area who have placed orders. Prices, according to catering manager James Cornewall-Walker, are "very competitive". They'll have to be. Make mine a Pepperoni Plus.

Calling Archers fans

Are you an Archers addict? I confess I try not to miss Sunday's omnibus edition. Yet, if it wasn't for characters calling each other by their names the moment they enter a scene, I doubt whether I would recognise very many. Nelson was one of the few exceptions. No one could imitate that very special timbre, that fruitiness. But he, alas, is no more. Well now, psychologists at the University of Glasgow are on the hunt for fans of our longest-running soap to take part in a study in voice recognition. Tapes of different voices will be played and the volunteers will be asked whether they belong to an Archers character or not. "We know quite a lot about recognising people from their faces, but how we identify voices remains a mystery," says Professor Mike Burton of the Department of Psychology. So, if you wish to volunteer and have normal hearing, contact Stephen Kelly on 0141-330 5085.

Climbing bear

A 23-year-old student who became the youngest Briton to conquer Ama Dablam, the Himalayan mountain, which even the great Sir Edmund Hillary pronounced "unclimbable", is now off to tackle Everest. Edward Grylls, "Bear" to his friends, is in his first year of a BA degree in Hispanic Studies at London University's Birkbeck College. He is an Old Etonian, unlike Dad, ex-Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls, who was educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. After the "impossible" Ama Dablam, this young Bear should find Everest a doddle and, as he's doing it for charity, I wish him God speed.

Supermarket science

With National Science Week not kicking off until tomorrow week - hopefully a lucky Friday the 13th - I had not expected so fine a trailer as that produced by the University of the West of England. Unfortunately only those living in the general Bristol area could benefit. Those who happened to shop at Tesco at Eastville and Safeway at Yate on two days in February found themselves looking at scientific experiments as well as beans and bacon. UWE's Faculty of Applied Science showed shoppers all kinds of simple scientific things, including how to measure acidity in various domestic products, how to make a battery by using a common lemon and how to build a crystal garden. That's the way to bring home to people some of that valuable lifelong learning David Blunkett talked about last week. Let's hope it made shoppers crave more.

Swinging elections

I have just been sent a copy of Network, produced by the National Union of Students and aimed at officers at member institutions. It is the first time I have seen this monthly mag and I was suitably impressed. Its advice is clear and sound and student unions should find it useful, particularly at a time when they are mounting elections for a new executive. On this subject, one article contains a novel proposal: "Hustings need not be boring... you can have a laugh as well. Why not try asking all candidates to put together an act - sing a song, tell some jokes or even bring their band to liven up the proceedings?" The evening could be compered by a celebrity or comedian, it says and suggests: "Just imagine Lee Hurst hosting your hustings." Hmm...

And finally...

When the Association of University Teachers decided to take a close look at the overall financial health of our higher education institutions, they asked them to submit details. Simple enough. Although some had to be reminded a few times, all eventually sent complementary copies of their annual reports, which contain full credit and debit accounts. One report (and only one), that of the University of St Andrews, arrived accompanied by an invoice for pounds 10. Now that's what some might call good housekeeping.