WORD OF MOUTH

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The Independent Online
It's a Byers market

Ruth Gee is back in business. Displaced by Roger Ward as chief executive of the Association for Colleges, now stunningly renamed the Association of Colleges, she has become adviser on further education to Stephen Byers, Labour MP for Wallsend, a man to be reckoned with if his party wins the next general election. Their backgrounds have much in common. He lectured in law at Newcastle Polytechnic; she was deputy director of the Polytechnic of North London and later, director of Edge Hill College, Lancashire. He was deputy leader of North Tyneside borough council and leader of the Council of Local Education Authorities; she was deputy leader of the late and oft lamented Inner London Education Authority. Both have genuine educational interests at heart. But in case the Palace of Westminster proves insufficiently challenging Ms Gee has also enrolled for a Master's degree in Business Administration (MBA) with the Open University.

News round the clock

The CNN news channel had better look to its laurels. BBC TV plans to launch a 24-hour news network from next November, according to John Simpson, the Beeb's distinguished foreign affairs editor. He was delivering a lecture, "The role of the media in international crisis", to the University of London Military Education Committee last week and admitted that Auntie doesn't always report the crises and wars of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the Gulf and the Falklands fairly or objectively, but that everyone tries hard to get it right. Perhaps the new channel will provide time for more in-depth reporting. As it was we were lucky to hear Simpson at all. That morning he had been in Berlin and 36 hours later he was to be in Algeria with just one cameraman. He managed to sandwich his Senate House lecture, which started only 10 minutes late, between both assignments.

Birdman* BA

Ironic, isn't it, that of the few thieves who are bagged, sneezed or popped (the old lag's slang for arrested) after annually robbing universities of equipment worth millions of pounds, many end up enrolling for further or higher education qualifications from the slammer or bucket (bucket and pail = jail). Of the 58,000 in our jails, 17,300 achieve units at NVQ level and 1,837 obtain full NVQs. Others doing their bird or porridge (sentence) take Open University degrees or other correspondence qualifications. Study keeps convicts quiet, according to prison officers (cloddies or Dr Who - screw). So what's with all the funny lingo? Angela Devlin, author of last year's excellent Criminal Classes which linked educational failure with crime, has now produced Prison Patter, a dictionary of prison slang (Waterside Press, Domum Road, Winchester, SO223 9NN; pounds 12 plus pounds 1.50 p&p). It contains more than 2,500 words and definitions used by the lags and their Scooby (Doo = screw). The book paints a vivid picture of current prison life and should do well. (*Birdman, one of a dozen or so words for prisoner).

Peacock tale

The London School of Economics couldn't buy County Hall but it has done the next best thing. It has snapped up the Royalty Theatre just down the road from its Aldwych campus - a building which will be known as the Peacock. Michael Peacock, TV producer and administrator and among the most generous of LSE alumni, has, together with the Peacock Charitable Foundation, stumped up much of the necessary. It must be one of the most unusual theatres in the country. By day it will be used by the LSE for public lectures and other academic events requiring 1,000 seats. At night and at weekends it will be used for opera and dance by Sadler's Wells, whose own theatre in Roseberry Avenue is being refurbished.

Highly UNlikely

Dr Hanan Ashrawi, probably the most skilful of Palestinian spokespersons and now that embryonic state's Higher Education Minister, has been a favourite to replace the United Nations Secretary-General, Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali. So when she flew to the Netherlands last week to address students and staff of Amsterdam's Free University, she was put on the spot by one questioner. Would she accept such an appointment, he asked. Like a shot came her reply: "I wouldn't wish that job on my worst enemy".

And finally...

Only keen Archers fans need read this. Sir Donald Irvine, President of the General Medical Council, last week told students at the University of London's Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School that he was receiving protests from the general public. "What do you think you're playing at?" he is being asked in no uncertain terms. "It's not right! That nice Dr Locke hasn't done anything wrong!"

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