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Feel the quality

Two organisations inspect and measure quality in higher education. One is attached to the higher education funding councils; the other is part of the Higher Education Quality Council (HEQC). They are to be replaced by a single agency, and Diana Warwick, chief executive of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, is busily trying to appoint an administrator. A new boss is needed and the post is to be advertised in the new year. I understand that a short list of four is circulating. It includes Dr Roger Brown, current chief executive of the HEQC; Ruth Gee, until recently chief executive of the Association for Colleges; Professor David Watson, director of Brighton University; and Professor Colin Bell, vice-principal of Edinburgh University.

Let students decide

While still with quality, the University of Bradford is to reward its own best academics. Who is to pick the creme de la creme? The Funding Council? The HEQC? Neither. The university's current and former students will do the job. And why not? They know good teachers better than any stuffy visiting inspector. A selection panel will confer up to three chancellor's awards for distinguished teaching each year. Winners will receive a certificate and a prize of pounds 500 "to enhance the quality of the award-holder's teaching". Their names will be listed in a "roll of honour to be mounted conspicuously on campus". Just as they used to do in the factories of Communist states when workers surpassed their monthly target.

Dahrendorf goes

Lord Dahrendorf, who will be 68 in May, is to step down as warden of St Anthony's, Oxford's postgraduate college, next October. He will have completed 10 years in the post and will be succeeded by another of the international good and great, Marrack Goulding, 60-year-old under-secretary for political affairs at the United Nations in New York.

Lord Dahrendorf, one of those unusual foreigners who is more English than the English, has had a distinguished academic career, including a 10-year spell as director of the London School of Economics, which is also in for a change of director. Sir John Bourn, Comptroller and Auditor General, was offered John Ashworth's post - and rejected it. Dr Ashworth wisely went to chair the brand new British Library. So Professor Leslie Hannah, pro-director, was asked to fill the gap. Now Professor Anthony Giddens, the prolific social theorist from King's College, Cambridge, has landed the job and is keeping us all guessing about his views on tuition fees.

Ancient and Modern

It's out with the new and in with the modern. The so-called new universities have joined forces to form a Coalition of Modern Universities. In its submission to Sir Ron Dearing's Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, the coalition points out that modern universities have been in the vanguard of changes to the student population, curriculum structures, accountability for quality and standards, applied research, and technology transfer. It hopes that the Dearing Committee will bear these matters in mind and commend the "continuing strength of the Modern University tradition".

The union's Jack

It gave me great pleasure to see Jack Jones being awarded an honorary doctorate of letters by Coventry University. At 83, this former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union is still going strong. He is generally seen as the "pensioners' voice".

A vice-president of Age Concern, Jack Jones has probably done more for the working person and those considered "too old to work" than anyone else in the country.

And finally ...

Whoever writes "View from the tower", a column in Imperial College's newsletter, has made a good point.

"We shall all be looking out for offers to sponsor major capital projects in the not too distant future," he (or perhaps she?) writes.

"Will we end up in the Oxbridge dilemma of having to make difficult decisions on whether to accept money from organisations who have made it from dealing in armaments or tobacco, I wonder.

Perhaps if we felt that way, we should not even accept our miserable block grant from our own Government!"