WORD OF MOUTH

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What to call a rose

I am grateful to readers who submitted new names for Anglia Polytechnic University as requested ("A rose by any other ..." 20 February). I quite liked Oxford's Philip Jaggard, who suggested St Edmund's University. You will all doubtless remember him as the king of East Anglia (AD 855-869) who was martyred by the Danes for being a Christian. Then there was a neat one from Jonathan Hulme of Tonbridge, Kent: Caesaromagus (Chelmsford's Roman name) - "this could be loosely translated as `Market Leader' - obviously a built-in mission statement," said Mr Hulme, who added that, since Chelmsford is close to the Essex motor industry, why not Ford Anglia University? Could be a few quid in that one. Tomorrow all names suggested by staff, students and perhaps even Word of Mouth go the Vice-Chancellor, who will cogitate and take them to next month's Board of Governors. My money's still on Chelmsford University. But then, I never win gambles.

Ambassadorial boars

Let's not have any of that "vice-chancellors are just old boars" stuff - even with that spelling. But that's what Professor David Johns, v-c of Bradford University, has become. He has been joined by another old boar, Professor David Weir, director of the Management Centre. I'll explain. Bradford Council has appointed them as its official ambassadors. After all, they have good contacts, travel to all the right places and will sing the praises not only of their university but also of the city in which it stands. Each sports a lapel badge showing a boar's head. According to legend, a wild boar terrorised the district during the Middle Ages and a reward was offered to anyone who killed the beast. A brave young squire did the deed and cut out the boar's tongue as proof. A rascal who turned up with the tongueless carcass to claim the booty was rightly spurned. I suppose only true boars may now speak for Bradford.

Marginal students

In 1992 some 2.5 million young people aged 18-25 failed to register for the general election vote, as it might have clobbered them for the dreaded poll tax. So it is astounding that more than 250,000 young students have this time responded positively to the National Union of Students' appeal to register and put their cross on that all-important ballot paper in a few weeks' time. Where they've registered (home or university/college address) isn't clear. But there are at least a dozen marginals at university constituencies. Candidates will have their work cut out. And rightly so.

Those questionnaires sent to general election candidates by the Association of University Teachers (this column, 20 February) are returning thick and fast - but so far mainly from Lib Dems. Many Labour candidates, instead of answering the questions, have sent that bit of the party manifesto which deals with education.

Tory replies provide a pathetically small pie. The AUT and local student unions are also organising a series of Question Time sessions for candidates at universities in marginal constituencies. First off the mark was Sussex University last week, followed by Essex on Monday. Exeter runs its session next Thursday, 20 March.

Barbershop quartet

Michael Barber, dean of New Initiatives at London University Institute of Education, is serenading almost everyone. He has produced a new booklet for school governors on "target-setting", to be published in the summer. It was commissioned by the Government. At the same time he has headed a task force on literacy at age 11 for David Blunkett, shadow Education Secretary. And he's writing education speeches for Tony Blair. Professor Barber is also the man most strongly tipped to succeed Chris Woodhead as chief inspector. So is he Labour or Tory, neither or both? Over to the Education Minister, Robin Squire: "These academics are very flexible. Anyway, there's not really much difference between the two parties where educational standards are concerned." Hm. Not much difference between the two parties at all, if you ask me.

And finally ...

What value a vice chancellor? Last week, students at Oxford Brookes University kidnapped their vice-chancellor, Clive Booth, as part of rag week. They are still counting the cash, all of which goes to charity, but I can disclose that the provisional figure for Professor Booth is pounds 140. Kidnapping clearly does not pay these days

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