Just figure that

Just before Sir Ron Dearing catapulted his giant report of academe, Diana Warwick, chief executive of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP), pointed out that universities were facing a funding gap close to pounds 2bn. "We can do our job only if funding is put on a sure footing," she said. Quite right. And Ms Warwick has the back-up facts at her fingertips. Perhaps David Blunkett should know that 3 per cent of Britain's entire workforce is employed by the higher education sector; that this same sector generates more than pounds 43bn worth of business; that it spends nearly pounds 13bn on goods and services produced in the UK - an incredible 2.1 per cent of the nation's total gross domestic product; that universities now manage to draw 27 per cent of their funding from private sources and from overseas; and that for every pounds 1m spent by universities, pounds 2.21m of output is generated in other parts of Britain's economy. These figures, also from the CVCP, should at least persuade the Government that, for the sake of all our futures, it is worthwhile investing in higher education.

Pink, fluffy prize

A book which its author described as "the least romantic book I have written" has won the Romantic Novel of the Year award. No one could have been more astonished than Sue Gee, a part-time lecturer in writing and publishing studies at Middlesex University, when she was told she had won the pounds 5,000 prize for her novel, The Hours of the Night. She was even more surprised when the vice-chairman of the Romantic Novelists' Association, in trying to persuade its members to change the association's name, said: "Romanticism [was] the opposite of classicism. But now it is associated with Mills & Boon, Barbara Cartland and things that are pink and fluffy." Quoth Sue: "Pink and fluffy hardly describes my book." This, her fifth novel, was published this summer and deals with the love affairs of six people. Its main character is a "virginal poet" who falls in love with a homosexual man. As Sue says, hardly pink and fluffy ...

Exciting the atoms

It is exactly 75 years since the Harrison Memorial Prize was created. Colonel Edward Harrison had been deputy controller of the Government's chemical warfare department and spent his time protecting those who took the king's shilling from poison gases during the Great War. Since 1922 this prestigious prize has been awarded annually to young chemists (they have to be under 30) for "the most meritorious and promising original investigations in chemistry". And year after year it has gone to men. Dr Helen Fielding, who is 29 and a chemistry lecturer at King's College, one of the founding colleges of London University, is the first woman to win the prize for her "contribution to the dynamics of highly excited atoms and molecules". I am, alas, ignorant about such matters - but it is clearly of the utmost importance, since Dr Fielding's research has already attracted pounds 400,000 to King's. She is, I'm told, the only British academic working in this field, which entails keeping a close watch on orbiting electrons. Were I wearing a hat, I'd doff it to her.

Tune in to a degree

If you are finding it tough to get a ticket to concerts at the Royal Festival Hall and the Albert Hall, why not sign up for a postgraduate degree programme in American music? I don't suppose it will guarantee you a seat, but the course includes visits to concerts and the musical theatre. Tempted? I know I am. The course is being run by the Institute of United States Studies at the University of London, under the leadership of that fine musician, Professor Peter Dickinson. London has always been a great importer of music and musicians (just think of Handel and Mendelssohn). And where better these days to hear American music (George Gershwin, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Richard Rodgers and Dimitri Tiomkin, to name just a few) than this country? "It used to be assumed that music was highbrow and European," says Prof Dickinson. "American music, within its own confines, has changed all that in favour of a multi- cultural scene." The course forms part of the MA degree in United States Studies.

Taking a dive

Remember Olga Korbut, the Soviet child athlete? Come to that, do you remember the Soviets? In the good old, bad old days, the Soviets and their satellites used to spot future gold medallists when they were barely out of nappies and train them relentlessly for the Olympics. Britain was never into that kind of thing. Not cricket, dontcha know. Well, Mohammed Warda may change all that. Mohammed is an Egyptian who has won a scholarship to Leeds University to research for a PhD into what produces world-class divers. It's a subject that he already knows well, because he coaches Alexandria's diving team. He aims to develop some specific tests that will allow coaches to recognise potential talent in youngsters from the age of nine. His cousin Hassan Warda recently completed his PhD at Leeds - but that one was in engineering.

Yorkshire spread

Who can beat the University of Bradford for its graduate spread? According to Pauline Jennings, its alumni officer, its graduates are now to be found in 149 countries. Most of those overseas are in Malaysia (680), followed closely by the number of graduates living in Hong Kong (664). Then comes the US (436); Greece (342) and France (249). There are 135 in Australia; 114 in Russia, 90 in Kenya and 43 in China. Perhaps the 664 of Hong Kong should now be added to those in China, to bring it to the top of the alumni ladder. If your university is represented in more than 149 countries, do let me know.

And finally ...

Although the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology declared UDI as long ago as 1994 and is now quite independent from the university in the Oxford Road, it continues to use its internationally known acronym, Umist. There are, I suppose naturally, those who would like to change the meaning of the first two letters. Writing in the Umist Time, a chemistry lecturer suggested that it could stand for: Under (new) Management Institute of Science and Technology. Or even Unique Manchester Institute. Has any reader a better (printable) idea? Suggestions on a postcard, please.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Graduate Print Producer / Account Executive

£18 - 25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Graduate Print Producer / Account Execut...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketing Assistant - Wimbledon

£18000 - £19000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketin...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works