News that Lord Hollick, the New Labour peer, has been called in to mediate in the dispute between Somerset House and King's College London over what should happen to the "New Wing" of Somerset House has set tongues wagging in academe. The "red baron", as he used to be known, is an ace wheeler-dealer, working now at the world's largest buyout firm, KKR. If he can solve the Somerset House stand-off, he will deserve a place in history.
* Are civil servants labouring in the education offices of Whitehall practising joined-up government? We ask this because of our correspondent's experience last week. On ringing the press office of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) at 9.30am to ask for the telephone number of the press office of the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, she was told there was no one to talk to because all press officers were busy in a meeting. The telephone was placed where she could listen to the meeting taking place. Being in a hurry, the hackette rang directory enquiries. Did they have the number? Did they heck! In desperation, the journalist redialled the DCSF press office and spoke to the hapless youth again. He suggested she call the reception desk of DCSF, where she got a seasoned porter, who told her that the DCSF had nothing to do with DIUS, hence no phone numbers. We know that DIUS is a new department but this is ridiculous. Who is the press office to service if it doesn't service the press? Why, other bureaucrats, of course!
* If last week's student jury in London is anything to go by, Maeve Sherlock (right), the new chairman of the students' forum set up by the Government to give students a voice in policy-making, will have her work cut out making sense of students' concerns. They covered a huge range of issues and were pretty political. Lack of money inevitably loomed large. One student from the University of East Anglia said he had heard a rumour that some universities were considering raising the cap on top-up fees from £3,000 to £15,000. A student from University College London complained bitterly about the student loan form being too complicated. "You have to reapply each year even if nothing has changed in your circumstances," she said. This struck a chord with the man from Ucas who said the university application service had been working with the Student Loans Company to get the form changed – and to enable students to fill it in online. But this was proving difficult because of legal issues. What are these legal issues? We should be told.
* The "no skills, no fashion" campaign is launched today, on the eve of London Fashion Week 2008. Skillfast-UK, the sector skills council for fashion and textiles, has warned that London's position as a world centre for fashion is under threat, due to a lack of skilled recruits. About 3,000 students graduate from fashion courses each year – yet top designers and brands say they struggle to employ quality staff because new recruits lack the technical skills and production knowledge to turn their ideas into achievable designs. By way of protest, models wearing toiles – a designer's first mock-up of a garment – will pose in front of the House of Commons today, gathering at 12 noon at the Marriott Hotel County Hall in London. David Lammy and David Willetts have agreed to answer questions. Supporters should go to www.skillfast-uk.org/petition.