Word Of Mouth

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The Independent Online
Musical chairs

The University of Central England will suffer a double loss when both its pro-vice-chancellors quit for pastures new. First to go will be David Warner, who has been right-hand man to vice-chancellor Peter Knight for 12 years. He is to become principal of Swansea Institute of Higher Education, which is fighting for independent survival. Its governors are due to meet next Monday to decide its future and rubber-stamp Warner's appointment.The days of tenure, when academics could be secure for the rest of their working lives, are virtually over and I understand Warner will have a fixed-term contract of just two years. That's not long for putting the college back on its academic and financial feet. But if anyone can do it, it's 50-year- old Warner. His numerous publications include Human Resource Management in Higher and Further Education and the Income Generation Handbook. Any idea of a merger with the University of Glamorgan or the University of Wales at Swansea, as has been mooted, is likely to be shelved until Warner has his feet firmly under the desk. He takes up his post on New Year's Day. What if things don't work out for him? Dr Knight has taken the rare step of keeping Warner's job open for those two years. Knight's other departing pro-vice-chancellor is Diana Green. From next April she is to be boss of Sheffield Hallam University. Professor Green, an economist and expert in government, strategic planning and resource allocation, leaves UCE after 14 years to succeed John Stoddart, 59, who retires next year after 15 years as SHU's principal.

When Marlboro meets McDonald's

After all the kerfuffle about fags and Formula One, Irish beefburgers drowned by Welsh farmers and the T-bone steak ban, what would you consider to be the world's top image brands? Step forward Marlboro Cigarettes, followed not many steps behind by McDonald's. Who says so? Why, none other than John Saunders, brand new head of Aston University's business school. Professor Saunders is a widely acknowledged authority on product marketing and branding. It's all a matter of recognition and simple preference, he says. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with a customer's "loyalty" to any particular product. Marlboro exudes a macho image, the cowboy riding across cattle country. Did I say cattle? Oops! No bones, I hope. Stick a different label on those fags and the image disappears, though the taste remains the same. McDonald's is recognised the world over. Kodak, also near the top of the league, is seen as a film of trusted quality, even though it is probably similar to any other brand. "People eat Kit Kat because they prefer it, not because they are loyal to it," says Prof Saunders. So now you know.

Oxford walks tall

The latest wheeze at Oxford University is to recruit students without them ever needing to set foot in the place. Instead, courses will be taken by Internet. The Department of Continuing Education has introduced a pilot course for Tall - another boring acronym: Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning. It includes a 25- to 30-hour programme (or, in computer lingo, program) on local history. According to a survey conducted by the department, two people out of three on its public programmes have access to a computer, yet 40 per cent don't bother to use the Internet. The researchers believe that more than 200 million people will be able to use Internet by the end of the century. Only two and a bit years to go. Does anyone care?

Saint Apostrophe

As if the NHS hadn't enough problems, here's another to add to the list. It involves the pounds 170m merger next year of some of our finest teaching hospitals. From 1999 budding medical and dental students will be taught by the combined staff of Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Hospitals' Medical & Dental Schools. For 600 years, St Thomas', founded in the 12th century, remained London's only hospital south of the Thames. Thomas Guy then founded a new hospital (it became Guy's) in the 18th century and admitted its first patients in 1726. Now these two will join King's College, whose 315,300 students make it one of the largest within the University of London. King's is a mere youngster, set up only in the 19th century by such pioneers as Lord (Joseph) Lister, the genius who founded antiseptic surgery. So where's the problem? Look back a few lines and you'll see it: the collection of apostrophes. What every surgeon wielding a scalpel is now asking him or herself before making the first incision is: What the hell are we going to call the new conglomeration? And should St Thomas be St Thomas' or St Thomas's? You see, there were two: St Thomas a Beckett and St Thomas the Apostle (aka Doubting Thomas). No one will wish to lose any of the individual names. I challenge my readers to come to the aid of this particular party. Can you think of a name? One wag has suggested St Thomas the Apostrophe. I'm sure you can do better. All answers on a postcard by 8 January. A bottle of bubbly for the best.

Par for the course:

When the University of Salford conducted a survey among 657 freshers registering for courses, it found 10.4 per cent were from overseas, the rest being home students; 62.9 per cent were aged 18-20; 20.7 per cent were 21-25 and 16.4 per cent were over 25. And of 376 home students aged 18-20, some 90 had come through Clearing. Of these, 53 had used The Independent to pinpoint Salford; eight The Guardian; five The Times and just three The Daily Telegraph. According to Update, Salford's newsletter: "The Independent's dominance is probably due to the fact that it carries the official UCAS vacancies... The Independent has won the UCAS contract for the listing next year."

And finally

A kind reader has sent me some pages culled from a dictionary of European Union acronyms, abbreviations and sobriquets called Eurojargon. It was compiled by Anne Ramsay FLA (an acronym for Fellow Library Association) and flows on for pages and pages. My favourite is the acronym for a group formed after Mrs Thatcher spoke in Bruges in September 1988. It is the Friends of Bruges - or Fob. Its chairman is the Eurosceptic Tory MP for Stafford, Bill Cash.