WORD OF MOUTH

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The Independent Online
Building for AD 2000

What's going on? On the one hand universities and colleges are pleading poverty, while on the the other they're expanding as if there were no tomorrow. New buildings are going up all over the place. Can it be that many are looking to Dearing as we poor mortals look to the Chancellor's Budget? You know: let's all fill the car with petrol and float the house on booze before taxes go up. Take Canterbury College of Further Education and Training, for example. It's building a pounds 30m campus in time for the millennium under the UK Private Finance Initiative. It is claimed to be the largest of its kind in the country - and may well be as far as an FE college is concerned, although the University of East London's Thames Gateway Technology Centre I mentioned the other week is considerably bigger. Then there's the University of Hertfordshire, which has just unveiled its own giant building programme, providing bigger, better research and teaching facilities for its 15,000 students. A learning resources centre as well as a new faculty of art and design, more lecture theatres and modernisation all-round will cost well over pounds 20m. And further north, the University of Teesside has clinched a gown/town initiative. The university, industry and commerce have joined forces to produce a hi-tech innovation and virtual reality centre on the Middlesbrough campus for around pounds 10m - half of which is being met from EU funds through Regional Challenge. All these building projects will provide much-needed jobs, regenerate communities and give us a taste of that new-found feel-good factor.

Another V-C to go

I won't allude to flies, but to report the resignation of a third vice- chancellor in as many weeks makes one wonder whether there's something they know that the rest of us don't. Or is it that, like almost everyone else in the educational world, vice-chancellors are fed to the teeth with being short-changed by one government after another? The latest to throw in the towel is Professor Kenneth Gregory, Warden of Goldsmiths College (they don't call them vice-chancellors there). I'm sure his motives are absolutely pure, but his five-year contract was renewed last year and extended to the year 2003, when he reaches the magic age of 65. He has now told his masters that he wishes to go in September 1998. He leaves Goldsmiths in excellent nick for his successor, with better facilities, relatively healthy finances, excellent research assessment exercise (RAE) results, and more professors than ever. So why? Well, he wants to spend more time on his main interest - geography research. And who would say him nay?

Seeing double 1

I see that University College London is to tackle those all-time killers and dedicate a pounds 10m research centre to the prevention of stroke, heart disease and cancer. Another generous piece of funding by the Wolfson Foundation. It will be housed in the red-brick Cruciform Building, former home of University College Hospital. Its name: the Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine. Oh yes? So what's that place attached to St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School (now QMW) at Smithfield, which, like UCL, is also part of the University of London? Why, none other than the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine. All right, so who has boobed?

Seeing double 2

Last week's memorial service in Bloomsbury for Frank Hartley was attended by many dignitaries, including - er - Frank Hartley. Shurely shome mishtake? But no, the very much alive Professor Frank Hartley is vice-chancellor of Cranfield University. He was attending the memorial service for his father, Sir Frank Hartley, the highly respected Dean of the School of Pharmacy (1962-76) and vice-chancellor of London University (1978-78), who died in January, aged 86.

A brace of Kents

The search for a page to carry the Duchess of Kent's train at today's degree awards ceremony at the University of Leeds, started a couple of months ago with a wee paragraph in Reporter, the university's busy newsletter. It asked "interested staff with sons aged 10-13" to come forward, so of course, there was a rumpus. The usual libbers' lobby demanded to know why it should be a male page. The clear response was that the university owned 50-year-old robes suitable only for a boy. Anyway, said Dr Lorraine Whewell, of residential and commercial services, it's tradition. Quite right. Even my dictionary defines "page" as "a boy used to run errands ... attend official functions, weddings ..." Well, they found their page to carry the weighty green-and-gold train flowing behind the glorious gown worn by the Duchess, who is the university's chancellor. By remarkable coincidence, the lad's name is also Kent - Edward Kent, aged 11, the son of Professor John Kent, professor of statistics. I hope he catches his train.

High flyers

Ironically, perhaps, British Airways, which can't be enjoying perfect relations with its crews and passengers at present, has helped construct a new degree in aviation management. The part-time MSc is suitable for a wide range of personnel, but has been aimed at airline pilots, cabin crew, operations staff and air traffic controllers, and will be on offer at Southampton University's aeronautics and astronautics department and the school of management. Apart from BA, advice has also come from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. This postgraduate degree may be taken over a period of three years. Perhaps BA's own executives should be the first to sign up. They could do with a few lessons in running a commercial airline and customer services, as could those in charge of the British Airports Authority. Their domestic BA terminal at Heathrow at weekends is more like a cattle market.

And finally ...

We stay with Southampton University for what must rank as the most novel treatment of a university logo. In their case it's a dolphin. Apart from appearing on prospectuses, notepaper, compliment slips and the like, it has now been baked and has made its debut as shortbread pastry. What is more, it's delicious

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