WORD OF MOUTH

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The Independent Online
A warm seat turns hot

In the early Eighties, Salford University was saved from almost certain bankruptcy by one man: John Ashworth. Former chief scientist to the Callaghan government's think-tank, he was appointed Salford's vice-chancellor by Mrs Thatcher, who, whatever her faults, recognised a fighter when she saw one. Ashworth pep-talked his way through the university's demoralised staff, turning a pounds 40m deficit into a healthy bank balance. Nine years later, he was appointed director of the London School of Economics and has now resigned to chair the British Library. Although he may have exasperated a number of Houghton Street academics, Ashworth was eulogised at last week's unveiling of his portrait. Among his admirers was Sir Peter Parker, who seems to have been a chairman of something or other for most of his life, including the LSE's court of governors. Tinged with what must pass as humour, he said: "With what art did June Mendoza [painter of the portrait] manage to get him to sit still?" Ho-ho. And: "John will be remembered for his panache on a bicycle." Ho-ever-so-ho. After the Antony-reminiscent praise, came an audible stage-whisper from a guest: "So why did the so- and-so's let him go?" And why did the man they appointed to replace him (Sir John Bourn, Comptroller and Auditor General) decline the honour?

From quad to quango

Now to the second episode of that other resignation - Clive Booth, V- C of Oxford Brooks University. I understand two quangos are in line to grab him and there's a job "of major responsibility" with the Labour Party for him "when they win the general election". Dr Booth assures me he always planned to do "no more than 10 years" as vice-chancellor. He is, of course, no newcomer to Labour politics and education combined, having acted as PPS to Fred Mulley and Shirley Williams at the old DES. He was also among the more distinguished members of Her Majesty's Inspectorate.

Where others fear to spread

In these austere days when higher education establishments have a tough time rubbing two 50p pieces together, it is rare to hear that a university - Nottingham - plans to build a new pounds 40m, 30-acre campus. No wonder more than 100 architects queued for so rich a contract, the biggest development since the university's last major expansion in the vastly more affluent Sixties.

Of the 100, only six were chosen and their entries are being studied at the Royal Institute of British Architecture. The lucky finalists, with examples of their work, are: Arup Associates, which was responsible for New College, Durham University, as well as Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; Fielden Clegg (the Open University); Hodder Associates (St Catherine's College, Oxford); Macormac Jameson Pritchard (Queen Mary and Westfield College, London University); Michael Hopkins & Partners (Emmanuel College, Cambridge), and Terry Farrell & Partners (Keele University's extension). The winner will be announced next month and work is due to start in the summer.

2:1 or 2 to 1 degree?

I'm willing to bet there's not another degree quite like the new one at Salford University: a three-year BSc Honours course in business economics with gambling studies. The degree will "encourage serious scholarly research and teaching regarding all aspects of gambling and commercial gaming" and students will visit casinos, betting shops and a racecourse. The course is being sponsored by Stanley Leisure plc, London Clubs International, Stakis plc, Crockfords, the TJH Group and Grosvenor Casinos, while advisers include such notables as Leonard Steinberg of the Stanley Organisation, John Beard (Bingo Association of Great Britain), Lady Littler (Gaming Board of Great Britain) and David Rigg of the Camelot Group. So, it's eyes down for a full house

Drought-driven togetherness

The following advertisement appeared in Ram, the University of Bradford Union's daily newsletter, earlier this month: "Room available in centrally- heated house with double glazing, washing machine/tumble dryer - Shower with friendly people in a decent area for just pounds 27.50 per week. Leave note ... " n

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