WORD OF MOUTH

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The Independent Online
Royal redbrick: As I showed last week, the mafia-like Oxbridge hold on the Cabinet has been shattered by Blair's Babes. Here's another break with tradition: most members of the Royal Family who made it to university went either to Cambridge or Edinburgh. Now along comes young Peter Phillips, the Princess Royal's lad. He starts his course in October (a degree in Exercise and Sports Sciences) at Exeter University. His proud Mum, by far the hardest- working, and one of the most sensible of the royals, made a point of stopping at Exeter's stall when she visited the British Education Exhibition in Hong Kong earlier this year, to tell its staff that Peter looked forward to becoming their undergraduate. Buck House agrees that he is probably the first royal to go to a redbrick. Good for him, though I'm puzzled why, with Anne being Chancellor of London University, he did not register there. After all, Queen Mary and Westfield College has a degree in Sports Physiology. Maybe, like so many students, Peter just doesn't want to live at home.

Mapped by Monks:

A brief memo from Lord Passfield (Sidney Webb, founder of the LSE) led to the creation of the TUC's formidable library. Now you'd think the opening donation of pounds 50 might have been invested in a set of decent books on social history and philosophy. But no. The first thing the recruitment-conscious TUC bought was a new world atlas. This story was told last week, 75 years after that purchase, by the TUC general secretary, John Monks, when he officially reopened the library, at the University of North London, its new abode. With the vice-chancellor, Brian Roper, at his side, Monks kicked off his speech: "Vice-chancellor - or, in accordance with the example set by the Prime Minister, Brian ..." He then disclosed that he never wanted the library to go to UNL. "As a south Londoner I voted for Greenwich ... but you won." Quite right, too. The university, in the heart of London (Holloway Road), has always enjoyed close links with trade unions. Among the library's many treasures is the original manuscript of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. But what, I wonder, has happened to that atlas? Scarborough fair:

It's years since I visited Scarborough, and until last week I had forgotten just how beautiful it is. Each morning its magnificent beach is swept; it must be the cleanest in the country. To this sunny setting came 200 academics - council of the 38,000-strong Association of University Teachers. Universities face a miserable year, teaching more and more students with fewer and fewer funds. On top of this, staff at many campuses face redundancy threats, including Nottingham (50 under a cloud for "under-performance", an allegation to be legally challenged), Wales (some 200 redundancies), Lancaster (40), Glasgow (90), Brunel (16), Kent (40) and Exeter (where a saving of pounds 4.5m is planned). All this would, of course, further worsen student-staff ratios and standards. The AUT has given notice of national action. Great start for the new government.

Ofsted ousted:

David Triesman, AUT general secretary, gave a splendid speech at the Spa. I particularly liked his reference to the Government's sports day. "Having caused a six-legged race for the Conservative leadership, they should now follow it with a sack race," he said, and called on Tony Blair to sack Chris Woodhead, boss of the awful Ofsted. Triesman explained: "You would boost teacher morale instantly where he has destroyed it. The National Association of Head Teachers would not have to announce that one-fifth of school heads are retiring this summer because of pressure of work, deteriorating health and burn-out. Classroom teachers would begin to feel like professionals, not pariahs." There's fightin' talk.

And finally...

At Scarborough, stagehands were busy hauling up the AUT's banner. It should have graced the back of the stage just above the heads of the association's executive. "Up a bit ... up a bit more ..." In the end, the banner was tugged up 20 metres to peep down at the hall from just below the drop curtain. Well, after all, the AUT does represent higher education.

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