WORD OF MOUTH

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The Independent Online
Mantras for management:

Some years ago I visited Viglon College, the Anglo-American secondary school in the Swiss Alps, and was impressed by the way pupils came together first thing in the morning to sit in silent meditation. It gave them a kick-start to the day, a mixture of academic study and physical exertions, such as skiing, climbing and riding. Dr Geoffrey Clements believes that meditation - of the transcendental variety - will help to solve the crisis in higher education by drawing out the highest potential of each student. He happens to be vice-chancellor of the Maharishi College of Management and Technology, shortly to move from Cheddington, Beds, to Skelmersdale, Lancs, to be closer to the Maharishi School, which scored very highly in GCSEs - thanks, it says, to transcendental meditation. "These results can be emulated by any school," says Mr Clements, whose college teaches University of London degree courses externally. There is, he says, a need for a new higher education approach. "No other university focuses on the fundamental of education - the consciousness of the student. The full creative potential of every student must be developed," he says. So I guess it will be mantras with BSc courses in management, economics, and computing and information systems, and a BA in English from now on.

Students hit the reef:

What would you do if you won pounds 14,500? There was no hesitation by a group of Aberdeen University students. They spent the summer conducting research along the coral reefs of Borneo. If that weren't enough, they also studied the Ghanaian hippopotamus and the tropical forests of Bolivia. That's what I call keen. The prize the three teams won came from the BP Conservation Programme, and included a pounds 10,000 grant to commemorate the Year of the Reef. (You did know about the Year of the Reef, didn't you?) It allowed four students to draft a management plan to save some 2,000 species under threat from fishing. Another team pocketed pounds 3,000 to help the survival of the few hippos left in the Black Volta. The remaining pounds 1,500 allowed Aberdeen students to visit Bolivian tropical forests and preserve trees that grow the fleshy fruit which feeds endangered species such as the giant armadillo. When Sir David Simon (BP's chairman until he became minister for trade and competitiveness in Europe) handed over the cash, he must have wished the students could have used some of it dreaming up a better title for his job.

London's Yorkshire pudding:

The University of Bradford feels that the city has been maligned and underrated by the media, so it has adopted the ancient axiom: "If the Mountain will not come to Mohamed, Mohamed must go to the Mountain." London's media is generally too lazy to move farther than Potters Bar, let alone Bradford, so the university is moving its best stories down to the Science Museum, South Kensington, for a day. Next Wednesday (24 September), Sue Coffey, head of the university's public relations department, who dreamt up this scheme, will put more than a dozen of her best unpublicised stories "on show". So if you want to know about the invention of artificial bone, the development of synthetic skin or the latest research into fighting off greying hair, start queuing quietly at the Science Museum at high noon. Also on: the film director Lord Puttnam (The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire); the Sports Council's chairman, Sir Rodney Walker; and Bryan Mosley of Coronation Street, which is, of course, more your actual Salford. And that's on t'other side o'f' Pennines ...

Dear Dearing reprise:

Vice-chancellors and principals converged on the University of Strathclyde this week and for three long days, Tuesday to Thursday, debated (yet again) their response to the Dearing inquiry into higher education. Most of the CVCP's residential conference was to be held behind locked doors, as they say. Hmm. I recall one occasion when the CVCP was meeting at Senate House, University of London, and one vice-chancellor wanted to know why some of the papers he had received for the occasion had been stamped "Confidential" while others, which seemed far more delicate, were not given such a warning. Dr John Ashworth, then director of the London School of Economics, ventured an explanation: "Stamping them confidential is the only way of making sure they get into the press," he said to guffaws. I think he had a point: can next week's CVCP discussions reveal anything fresh?

Move from Holloway:

Universities, like schools (and countries, for that matter) need good government to remain on top. Any that go bust or face a major crisis will have been poorly governed. These days, strong governing bodies are more important than ever. The University of East London is clearly aware of this, for it has followed up its installation of Lord Rix (formerly Brian Rix, the actor) as its first Chancellor by another fine catch: it has appointed Elizabeth Filkin, the Inland Revenue Adjudicator (or ombudsman - can there be an ombudswoman?), to its board of governors. This represents a loss of some magnitude to the Royal Holloway College at Egham, on whose governing body she had sat. Not that she'll be doing UEL's tax returns, but advice from her lips must be considered valuable. And since the fellow governors include Steve O'Brien, chief executive of London First, and George Barlow, chairman of the Peabody Trust, UEL can only grow stronger.

And finally ...

It's never too late to learn, they say. And John Whatley is putting the axiom to the test. A Hampshire copper for 30 years, he retired as Chief Inspector in 1975 and went to Oman, where he was Police Superintendent in Muscat. Now 70, he has enrolled for a degree course at the University of Southampton. His subject? Law, of course.

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