WORD OF MOUTH

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The Independent Online
Hello, Dolly!

What on earth have they done to poor Dolly? Remember that sheep, cloned at the Roslin Institute in Scotland? Well, she has been sheared and her fleece brought south of the border to Leeds where it is to be turned into yarn by the University of Leeds School of Textile Industries and used to knit the winning design in a nationwide jumper competition organised by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Dolly's jumper is to be shown on a forthcoming BBC Clothes Show and next month will be on permanent display at the Science Museum in London. So Dolly may bleat with pleasure knowing that her wool has gone to a first-class cause.

M1 Revels:

Happy New Year to Revel Barker. And a prosperous one at that. For the past four years this former Fleet Street hack has been head of public affairs at Cranfield University. He has now crossed the M1 to join the Open University as its first ever alumni director. At first glance this might not seem such a good swap. After all, Cranfield is among the country's finest universities and, as Barker never tired of telling us hacks, it sports its own airfield and has companies like Rolls-Royce, British Aerospace, Nissan and, whisper it softly, the MoD on site. So what are the attractions of the OU? Well, for one thing, since the Open opened in 1971 it has accrued no fewer than 120,000 alumni, with an additional 10,000 every year. Not a bad start for any head of alumni relations. Add to this a database listing the million students who have done OU courses and a further six million who watch its TV progs every week of the year and you have a carrot that simply has to be nibbled. And in case you're thinking of rushing along to Cranfield to queue for Barker's job, forget it. Revel, who has never lost his old Fleet Street acumen, remains Cranfield's consultant. Now that's what I call a good deal.

Who's for research?

It might surprise you to learn (it certainly did me) that last year alone nearly 96,000 postgraduates were conducting research leading to an MPhil or PhD. To find out why, the Higher Education Information Services Trust (Heist) questioned more than 1,000 of them. Most admitted they had continued studying, not because they wanted to become academics, but because they were interested in their subject. Education for education's sake? Ye gods, whatever next! The Heist survey came up with other shock-horror findings. For instance, with all the fuss over a university's research ratings, one might think them paramount in a student's choice of institution. No way. More than two out of three respondents said research ratings were of no importance. "Students were either unaware of the significance of ratings, did not understand them, did not have rating information or viewed other factors as more important in decision-making," the survey said. The friendliness or reputation of supervisors played a far bigger part in the student's choice, as did favourable impressions of a campus or department and the speed of response to an application. All of which shows how important it is for institutions to develop good relations with current and past students. They might provide universities with tomorrow's pot of jam.

Good investment:

So which university has not only been approved but reapproved for a further three years as an "Investor in People"? Not one of your biggies and, strangely, none of your oldies either. The University of Luton, aged four and a bit years, appears to be the only institution thus honoured. Only five universities possess this plum award for quality and a high standard of commitment. They are: Liverpool John Moores, Luton, Robert Gordon's in Aberdeen, Sunderland and Wolverhampton. All "new" universities, you'll note. Others, including "older" ones, also have this accolade but only individual departments, like the University of Loughborough's dental school. The title was set up by the Tory government some six years ago and is awarded after rigorous assessment of an institution's staff training and development following collaborative work with a local training and enterprise council. The assessment is made every three years and Luton was reapproved. That's rare - but what use is it? For one thing, those who have it may use the Investment in People logo on their recruitment literature. And that's worth every bit of effort.

Degree of cash:

Remember that anti-MBA diatribe I quoted at Christmas? An editorial in the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal urged the elimination of "high- flying MBA-educated technocrats"? Now a survey from the Association of MBAs, which represents more than 6,000 of the country's 10,000 MBA graduates, shows that, be they technocrats or not, their earnings are not to be sneezed at. They average pounds 53,700 a year. Some even luckier ones (6 per cent of the 1,500 respondents) earn in excess of pounds 100,000 and fewer than one in three earns less than pounds 30,000. When performance-related pay is considered the mean average rises to pounds 65,300. Nothing mean about that!

Those who took their MBA through full-time study commanded the highest salaries, followed by those who took it part-time, while the distance- learners were third in line. Highest average salary is within commerce and retailing (pounds 70,400) followed by banking, finance and insurance (pounds 65,200). Wouldn't you know it? Education is bottom even of this heap, with a mean (very mean!) average of pounds 28,800. Most graduates change employers within a year of gainingtheir MBA. It pays them to do so (literally!). But those who stay faithful to their employers are rarely rewarded.

And finally...

Any prospective student who bumped into Admissions Office staff at London Guildhall University shortly before the Christmas break, might have been a trifle confused. Chaps, even the odd fellow from Registry, appeared in drag, as cross-dressing used to be called. There they all were, in feather boas, minis and stockings, their nails, lips and eyes made up to the hilt. 'Ello,'ello, 'ello, what's all this then? Fear not. Guildhall hadn't gone transsexual. It was just the Admissions Office Christmas party.

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