WORD OF MOUTH

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Queen Mary loses Regent:

Another shock-horror resignation, this time at Queen Mary and Westfield College. Professor Graham Zellick, its principal since 1991 and on its staff for the past 26 years, is to step down two years early. Sir Christopher France, chairman of QMW's council, is to launch a search for a successor to start autumn 1998.

Professor Zellick's move is all the more surprising since he has only just been appointed vice-chancellor of the University of London. This important post he will not relinquish. Although labelled part-time, there's not much part-time about so big a federal university. So why this snap decision to quit QMW? "I felt eight years is a good run and [last week] consulted all heads of colleges, the chairman of London University council and the chairman of Convocation, in case there might be any misgivings. There weren't," Prof. Zellick, who will be a hard act to follow, told me. What he really, really wants, is to put his subject - law - into practice and be a barrister. It's in the family, after all. Jennifer Temkin, whom he married in 1975, is one - as well as Professor of Law at Sussex University. As for his vice-chancellorship, there is, of course, a notable precedent: Professor Sir Stewart Sutherland, now Principal of Edinburgh University, was appointed full-time vice-chancellor of London University in 1990 but then went part-time when, two years later, he took on the added task of Chief Inspector of Schools and first head of Ofsted.

Millennium campus:

Never mind the Greenwich Dome. Something far more exciting is taking shape just a few miles across the river. It's a 25-acre university campus - the first built in London for at least half a century. Plans for the University of East London Docklands Campus, unveiled by architect Edward Cullinan last week, have been supported by a powerful consortium including Queen Mary and Westfield College (University of London), London Guildhall University, and the London Borough of Newham. It is all part of the regeneration of Docklands and the Thames Gateway and, judging from plans I have seen, it will be quite spectacular. The first phase provides technology teaching for 3,000 students and should be ready two years from now. An arcaded square with shops and restaurants will form the nucleus; students will live in waterside residences - each room connected to the UEL computer network. The pounds 40m first phase of this Thames Gateway Technology Centre has been borne by the Government's single regeneration budget challenge fund, the Peabody Trust, the Ford Fund (US) and London Docklands Development Corporation. The second phase to expand student numbers to 7,000 will be developed early next century. Bubbly all round.

Bias - or just stupid?

What would you do if you happened to speak with an Irish accent and a copper called you "Paddy bastard"? Or if people told you to take elocution lessons? These and other examples abound in Discrimination and the Irish Community in Britain, a 300-page report by Dr Mary Hickman, director of Irish Studies at the University of North London and Dr Bronwen Walter, senior lecturer at Anglia Polytechnic University (published last week by the Commission for Racial Equality, pounds 11.50 incl.). The report performs a much-needed service for the Irish community, far too often inanely identified with the IRA. I could have provided the researchers with other examples. Take this one: a male teacher of Irish origin is employed as a special needs assistant (an excellent one at that) at a Catholic comprehensive in the London borough of Camden. He has a BA (2:1) in politics from the London School of Economics, and a Master's degree from Canada's top university - McGill - where he also taught. He was accepted for a PhD at the LSE, but had to abandon it through lack of funds. He wants to be a qualified history teacher and applied for a PGCE at various London universities. Nothing doing. And this at a time when there is an 11 per cent drop in teacher training applications. It is not just illogical. It's downright stupid. Or is it discrimination?

Luton strikes back:

Last week I reported that the University of Luton had called in accountants Coopers & Lybrand to take over and run the university's flagging finance department. My use of words has incensed vice-chancellor Tony Wood. "It is totally inaccurate to suggest any such thing," he told me. "We hired Coopers & Lybrand's executive search department to help us fill the post and they have provided us with an acting director of finance until a permanent director can be appointed." I am happy to put this matter right.

On yer Mountain bike...

You'd think London buses are on a go-slow. But no. They're just not properly managed. My own local 37 bus route must be among the worst in the capital. One often waits more than half an hour. Then, just like the joke, along come three. Well now, Imperial College is trying to ease the frustration and anger we all feel. Dave Mountain, of the physics department's optics workshop, has persuaded the college to introduce a bicycle purchase loan scheme to help clean up London and keep staff fit without resorting to cars, buses or tubes. Last year Mr Mountain cycled from Peking to London - 10,000 hot miles! Imperial staff can obtain interest-free loans ranging from pounds 150 to pounds 600 to get a bike. Health - and, believe it or not, speed - are the incentives. A Ministry of Transport survey has found bike the fastest way to travel. A five-mile journey in inner London takes 34 minutes by bike and 45 minutes by car. And an hour by No. 37, I suppose...

And finally....

When staff at Glasgow University were offered a range of courses paid from its employee development fund, organisers were almost crushed in the rush. Some 700 people signed on for this fine project, appropriately called "Learning Works" (I note it shares the name with Helena Kennedy's further education report, which came out yesterday). Now what courses d'you think proved most popular? Ancient Greek? Mathematics? Astrophysics? Not on your haggis. Four women asked to learn painting - of the painting and decorating variety, that is. Others wanted guitar lessons, photography, creative writing, even T'ai Chi. There was also a group request for line dancing lessons. But most popular were two strange bedfellows: computing and aromatherapy.

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