Word Of Mouth: Browned off he's not

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The Independent Online
Roger Brown refuses to be disheartened. As chief executive of the Committee of Directors of Polytechnics, he helped steer the country's 38 polys to their modern university status, and has since led the Higher Education Quality Council. This, as regular readers will be aware, has been "replaced" by the Quality Assurance Agency. Dr Brown, just 50, was not selected as its boss. The job went to John Randall, also 50, NUS president 24 years ago, who is going to keep the business close to his Gloucestershire home. So what is Roger Brown up to? Well, for one thing he is collecting professorships. He has one from London University's Institute of Education, where he delivers learned lectures, and has now been given another from Middlesex University, where he is to deliver a professorial lecture on 6 November entitled: "Institutional responsibility: reality or myth?" Next he plans to set up a universities' think-tank to debate such delicate issues as the equivalence of degree standards, the var- iation between institutions of hours spent on modules (they range from 900 to 1,200), and their funding. The future looks Brown. Watch this space.

Exeunt (almost) omnes

We are in for a stampede of vice-chancellors. First, Professor David Johns, v-c of the University of Bradford since 1989, will be 67 next April and hangs up his mortarboard at the end of the academic year. But the former director of the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong has much to offer, and I expect him to be publicly active for ages. Surprisingly, John Stoddart, principal of Sheffield Hallam University since 1983, when it was still a poly, is leaving early, at age 59. When he chaired the Committee of Directors of Polytechnics, Stoddart appointed Roger Brown (see above). Even more surprising is the retirement next year, at the ripe old age of 56, of Michael Harrison, vice-chancellor of Wolverhampton University since 1985, when it, too, was still a poly. Mick couldn't possibly give it all up. Wolverhampton will suffer a double loss with the early retirement of its deputy vice-chancellor, John White. On top of these are the departures I have already reported: Professor Kenneth Gregory, warden of Goldsmiths College, London University, 60 next March; Professor Raoul Franklin, 63 next June, vice-chancellor of the City University for the past 20 years; and Dr Bob Smith, 62, v-c of Kingston University since 1983, who will be replaced in January by Professor Peter Scott of Leeds University. The former editor of the Times Higher. Leaving in 1999 will be another stalwart: Sir Derek Roberts, 67 in March of that year. He will have completed 10 years as provost of University College London. As if these weren't enough, there's also Professor Graham Zellick, a youngster of 49, who resigned as principal of Queen Mary and Westfield College to concentrate on the University of London, of which he has just taken up the reins of vice- chancellor. And then there's that other London University satellite, Birkbeck College, which has still to replace its master, Baroness Blackstone, our dear Higher Education Minister. How many others will join the queue for the exits?

Exporting the best

Two universities have unveiled shop windows abroad. Staffordshire University's School of Art and Design has just opened its very own art gallery in Chelsea - Chelsea, New York, that is - and will exhibit the works of up-and-coming British artists as well as those of current and past students. First on show was the work of the university's head of fine art, Terry Shave, who trained at the Slade, that excellent school of fine art at UCL.

Middlesex University is into something quite different. It has opened an English language school, believed to be the first under the auspices of a British university, in Rio de Janeiro. The Middlesex Study Centre will offer intensive language courses and longer-term business programmes, and hopes to prepare Brazilian students for degree-level study at the university's Tottenham campus.

In the league for jobs

According to the European Commission, unemployment in Europe has fallen twice this summer and now stands at 10.6 per cent (from 10.9 per cent last year), mainly due to a drop in unemployment in the UK (6.9 per cent in July), Scandinavia, Portugal and Spain. Over here, Surrey University tops the employment league table, with fewer than 2 per cent unemployed six months after graduation. Second comes Cranfield University; third, Cambridge, then Warwick, Robert Gordon, Oxford, Nottingham, Birmingham, St Andrew's and, in 10th position, Bristol. Now that's the kind of league table I welcome.

All that glitters is not Goldstein

Another notable retirement, at the age of 73, and after 11 years as chairman of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), is that of Professor Berrick Saul, a former vice-chancellor of York University. When he was appointed in 1986, it was still the Standing Conference on University Entrance (the polys had their own outfit - PCAS, the Polytechnics Central Admissions System). In Professor Saul's place comes Michael Goldstein, 58, vice-chancellor of Coventry University. It is an admirable appointment to a position that has become tougher following Dearing's pronouncements. Student admission fees, which drew a cloud over this week's Labour party conference, have not made access easier. But Dr Goldstein, who has been closely connected with national admissions services for the past eight years (he was deputy chairman of PCAS) will bring just the right mixture of experience and sensitivity needed to lead the 18-strong council. He was director of Coventry Polytechnic since 1987, and its first vice-chancellor since it became a university. This week he said that developing a post- qualification admissions system will be his biggest challenge. I wish him luck.

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