Education: Word Of Mouth

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The Independent Online
Praying to The Lords:

To have a friend in court is always useful. To have one in the House of Lords is even better, particularly if, as now, you happen to be a university struggling to make ends meet without knowing where the next crust is coming from. There are about 20 universities whose chancellors are peers, and a further eight who have royals. Two of these share an HRH - Prince Philip, who doubles for Cambridge and, natch, Edinburgh. The "new" universities have still not realised that chancellors have their uses and those who sit in the Lords are not just pretty faces. I know of one new university whose chairman of governors refused a plea to appoint a chancellor - unless the job went to himself! Still, some of the former polys have realised that there's little point in having a "vice-chancellor" if there isn't a "chancellor" as well. And eight have even provided themselves with a peer. The first to see the light was the University of Northumbria. It made Lord Glenamara its chancellor when it was still Newcastle Poly. He used to be Ted Short, one-time Labour Secretary of State for Education, and still holds education close to his heart. Next week he celebrates his 85th birthday but let no one run away with the idea that he is gaga. Far from it! The other seven new university chancellors in the House of Lords are: Lord Limerick (London Guildhall); Baroness Kennedy (Oxford Brookes); Lord Rix (Brian Rix of Mencap and Whitehall farce fame - East London); Lord Ashley (Stoke's MP, Jack Ashley, for nearly 30 years - Staffordshire); Lord MacLaurin of Tesco fame (Hertfordshire); Baroness Platt, of equal opps (Middlesex) and Lord Palumbo (Portsmouth). Perhaps they should present a united front on such matters as student fees, league tables and the forthcoming White Paper. Who knows? They might rope in a few older university allies - such as Lord Carrington (Reading), Lord Dainton (Sheffield) or even Herself - Baroness Thatcher (Buckingham).

Pied a terre avec les vcs:

The comparatively new premises of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals are far bigger than its previous residence across the road, now back with its owners, the University of London. Only natural, then, that the CVCP should try to recoup some of its expenses by letting a smidgen of its space to others. Current tenants include the Standing Conference of Principals (SCOP), umbrella body of the country's colleges of higher education and an excellent bedfellow for the CVCP. But I was puzzled to learn that another paying guest to take up the top floor of the building once occupied by the Chief Rabbi's court and Beth Din is a firm that produces footwear for the appropriately named Pied a Terre. The educational angle escapes me. Unless, of course, it is to give the boot to the odd member who doesn't toe the official line.

Overload of cases:

Earlier this month Harriet Harman, the Social Security Sec - and women's minister to boot - went to the London School of Economics to launch Case. It stands for the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, deals with social outcasts, poverty traps and changing family patterns, is based at the LSE, and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. No doubt, it will become confused with Case - the Campaign for the Advancement of State Education, a pressure group which has for years been fighting for the right of all children, no matter what their background, to receive the very best state education. And then there's Case - the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, imported from America, to help universities and colleges with their public relations, and their alumni and fundraising activities. Hope all these won't lead to cases of mistaken identity.

Soothing savage Breasts:

Education - and even the Church - should be grateful to the Bishop of London for publicly humiliating the young vicar of St Bartholomew's, Bethnal Green. But before the writs start to fly from Lambeth Palace, let me hasten to say that this took place in 1847. The vicar, Nathaniel Woodard, had dared suggest that Anglicans, like Romans, might also attend confessionals. Tut-tut. He escaped to the seaside and was appointed curate at Shoreham, where to help ends meet, he started a small day school in his dining room. Fees were pounds 3 a year (pounds 4 if you enrolled for French and Latin). That's how Lancing College came about as well as a whole series of Woodard schools - 37 of them in all today, five of them state-maintained and all of them with a fine musical tradition. And for the past 150 years they have fed universities with an annual flock of scholarly students. Last week, HRH Prince Edward and I went to the Royal Albert Hall (though not together, dontcha know) to hear what kind of music these youngsters could produce. We were both impressed. A symphony orchestra of 123 fine instrumentalists, a 117-strong concert band and a superb choir of more than 1,000 voices, provided a packed RAH with as wide-ranging a musical feast as one could hope for this side of the Proms.

And when even the orchestra downed their instruments to provide a 1,250- voice rendering of John Rutter's "The Lord Bless You and Keep You", it was a most moving musical experience and a magnificent Amen to a glorious 150th anniversary.

And finally

"To Let: Quiet room with own shower and separate toilet in enclosed garden..." From the small ads page of Edinburgh University's Bulletin.

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