WORD OF MOUTH

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The Independent Online
It could be yoo-hoo

Camelot, aka the National Lottery, really wants blood for its easily gotten gains. It has given a village band pounds 50,000 to equip its 80 members with much-needed instruments - on condition that it commissions a young person to compose music in honour of the National Lottery.

So, step forward Nick Jones, postgraduate PhD student of music at Cardiff University. He courageously tackled the assignment, which meant tailoring his "Celebration Suite" to suit Alveley Village Band in Shropshire. Their ages and musical stages range from infants to 70-year-olds. Nick conducted the premiere at the village church, which has achieved its own millennium. Oh, and Nick, who specialises in the works of the magical Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, received just pounds 500 for his labours. Some jackpot!

Latest scourge

When Roger Slee, Professor of Education at Goldsmith College, University of London, delivered his inaugural lecture on Tuesday, he introduced another piece of jargon: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder syndrome (ADHD) - the label for an increasing number of children who fail to follow their teachers and start disrupting classes.

Professor Slee, who has taught Down Under, had a go at Gilly Shephard, calling her "myopic" for planning still more "dumping grounds or pupil referral units". Such "quick fixes" and Draconian punishments won't work, he said. More flexible approaches to teaching and changing the curriculum might give better results. I thought that's what they tried at the Ridings School. If I had my say, I'd have a closer look at the parents of these young yobbos and perhaps check their diet of "food" and telly.

In concert:

One actor I have always admired is David Kossoff, who will be 77 in 10 days' time. But what can he have in common with such comparative youngsters as agony aunt Claire Rayner, only in her fifties, and TV presenter Trevor Phillips, a mere lad in his early forties? All happen to be alumni of the University of North London. Claire is an honorary fellow and Trevor, who has the added distinction of having been the first-ever black president of the National Union of Students, has an honorary Master's degree. David Kossoff, always remembered for his Morry in The Bespoke Overcoat and his magnificent retelling of the Bible stories on TV, is the trio's only genuine UNL ex-student, having left the old Northern Polytechnic 60 years ago.

Next Monday night the three will come together for a gala concert at the Royal Festival Hall to commemorate the university's centenary. The two young ones will act as comperes while David Kossoff will be the narrator in Prokofiev's masterpiece, Peter and the Wolf. The concert, to be performed by north London schools, includes a 350-strong choir and jazz ensemble. It is open to the public.

When the lady's a prof

Universities prattle on and on about equal ops, yet few seem to be putting their own houses in order. Those who saw last week's BBC2 documentary showing that more firsts go to male history graduates at Cambridge than to women, might also wish to learn that, although one-third of the country's academics are women, only seven out of every 100 professors are female. Only 12 per cent of professors in social science, economics and politics are female, but more women profs make it in medicine (14 per cent).

These figures relate to 1994-95 and come from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. King's College, London, rightly takes pride in leading the field among the "old" universities with women making up almost 17 per cent of its professorial staff. But the "new" universities appear to beat the "old", South Bank University being streaks ahead with 32.6 per cent women profs. Could this date back to its former vice-chancellor, the Baroness Perry, now president of Lucy Cavendish Hall, Cambridge?

Turning a new page

While we are on the subject, Edinburgh University has just scored a hit for equal ops. The appointment of a woman as principal of New College is a milestone in the its 150-year history. She is the Rev Dr Ruth Page, who now heads the college's department of Theology and Religious Studies. A graduate of St Andrew's, she travelled the world, teaching French. In those days teaching was just about all a woman could do - other than nursing, or being some chap's secretary. In the Sixties she returned to take a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Otago University, Dunedin and a D Phil at Oxford. She is an expert on land use in Scotland and a fervent defender of the environment. Her latest opus, God and the Web of Creation, has just been published.

And finally ...

Once again I am indebted to Wye Agricultural College, part of London University, for the following snatch of chatter: "What's another word for `thesaurus'?"n

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