Education Word of Mouth: The show mustn't go on

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The Independent Online
HOW'S THIS for an unacceptable face of capitalism? Undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge, are producing The Maids, a rarely staged Jean Genet play. Its young directors, Alex Mackintosh (studying French and Spanish) and Katie McAleese (English) decided to follow Genet's wishes to the letter and cast three men in the title's female roles. Producer Anna Gordon-Walker (second year Italian and French) went even further. She arranged for Alexandre Buglion, the director of the Cirque Tsigane, in Paris, and one of Genet's close friends, to pop over and provide the cast and other students with an invaluable insight into Genet's life. All went swimmingly - until the theatre management insisted on an interval. No matter how persuasive the argument that this was written as a one-act play and one act plays do not have intervals, it was not persuasive enough. So why this silly rule? Simple. Audiences make for bars at intervals and spend lots of money. Who gives a damn about art when it comes to profit margins?

Trinity who?

HOW, I wonder, will the same Trinity College feel when it learns its name has been taken in vain on writing paper flanked by little drawings of men and women in mortar boards and gowns - and offering just about any degree at a price? You can get an "ordinary" BA or BSc for a mere pounds 395, turned miraculously into honours level for an additional pounds 55. You need only complete a form with your "life experiences" which might (and probably will) serve as credits towards the degree. You could even get that doctorate (PhD or DD) you've always craved, price pounds 595. And should you wish to "study" for an MBA or Master of Commerce degree, you'll need to cough up pounds 700. In response to an advertisement from this "university", a friend sent the following letter: "Dear Sir - Would you kindley send deatils of your Life Experience degrees. I enclose pounds 1 in stamps. I have a lot of life experience. Yours truly." Most authentic universities would ignore such a semi-literate letter. But the response my friend received from a Manchester address was even more ill-spelled and ungrammatical. Enclosed with a wad of information was a page showing examples of the lovely certificates you can be awarded from this "Trinity College". One of them, dutifuly sealed, signed and dated, states that "X" has the rank and status of Professor of Engineering. Wow! Don't get crushed in the stampede.

Musical lollies

I CAME across yet another Trinity College this week. On Monday I went to the Royal Festival Hall, in London, to hear a concert for children by children - the Lollipop Prom. It was compered by Lin Marsh who studied piano and voice at London University's Trinity College of Music and got an MA in performance arts at Middlesex University. The way she handled thousands of youngsters was stunning. The performances, too, were tops, but special praise goes to Ciaran Linane, a tiny lad of seven who played the fiddle and danced a heavenly Irish jigs Larry Weston who has been producing the Schools Proms for years. As a nine-year-old at Hugh Middleton School in Shoreditch he was taken to Sadler's Wells. "It was the first time I had been in an auditorium and saw all those people in wonderful costumes singing their hearts out. Ever since, I have wanted all children to have the same opportunity to hear and make music." Larry got the RFH free, but a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation to make this possible ends this year. It would be sad if the Lolly Prom also had to end.


I SPENT last week cooped up in the Japanese embassy interviewing applicants for the popular Japan Exchange and Teaching programme, best known as JET. The British English Teaching project would have celebrated its 21st birthday this year but changed its name to JET in 1985. Since then some 4,000 British graduates have spent at least one year as language assistants in Japanese junior and senior high schools. This year, more than 1,300 young men and women have applied. Leeds University has retained the lead it has held for several years by topping the JET "league" with 74 applications (of whom a respectable 69 reached interview stage). Second in the top five was London University with 66 applications (57 interviewed); then came Cambridge with 52 (51); Durham 47 (44); and Manchester 47 (43). The "new" universities still appear largely oblivious to this excellent opportunity. Nottingham Trent University supplied most applicants - 14 - of whom 12 reached interview stage, followed far behind in joint second place by the University of North London and Liverpool John Moores University, with just six applicants apiece. It's time the ex-polys stopped being JET-lagged.

And finally

WOLVERHAMPTON MP Jenny Jones, one of Blair's Babes, is an alumna of Wolverhampton University; so are her personal assistant, Julie Clark and political agent, Dr Len Moore, who is a former dean of the university's school of continuing education. Writing in Ahead, the uni's new mag, Ms Jones recalls her first day at the House of Commons. She spent it searching for the loos and working out how many months she would have to wait for a telephone. When she finally found the ladies, there were people labelling new hangers, each of which had a red ribbon hanging down. She asked what they were for. "That's where you hang your sword."