Richard Ingrams: If we can't afford some universities, shut them down

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My former neighbour Sir Max Hastings told us, in the light of this week's student riot in London, that the Government has two alternatives: either to provide more money for the universities or to make the students pay more for the privilege of attending them.

There is a third option, namely to shut down the bulk of universities altogether – a course that would have been welcomed by my friend Malcolm Muggeridge, who often proposed what he called the Dissolution of the Universities. "Universities have become totally farcical institutions," he once said. "I should very much like to see them shut down."

No politician would be bold enough to propose such a solution, but when fees of £9,000 a term are being talked of, a great many universities are likely to shut down of necessity for lack of students and therefore funds.

In the meantime, everyone, not only students, ought to protest over what is a gigantic scandal, namely that for years politicians of all parties have encouraged more and more young people to go to university but have now, late in the day – nothing to do with the current financial crisis – realised that the country can't afford it and that those students will in future have to incur huge debts if they want to get a university degree.

Charles's new guru is as eccentric as the last one

I was intrigued to find no mention of the late Sir Laurens van der Post in Prince Charles's new book Harmony, subtitled "A New Way of Looking at Our World". Intrigued, because it was Sir Laurens who more than anyone else was responsible for turning the young Prince Charles's thoughts to semi-mystical Jungian musings of this kind. Charles admired him so much that he even made him godfather to Prince William. Since then, however, Sir Laurens has been exposed as a bit of an old fraud which may explain why his name doesn't feature in the Harmony index.

But if one guru has been airbrushed out, another has taken his place, according to one of the book's reviewers, Rowan Moore. He is Professor Keith Critchlow, a believer in what is called "sacred geometry", something that according to the Prince the ancients knew all about but which we in our latter-day ignorance have since lost touch with.

It was Critchlow who once informed Mr Moore that Muslim scholars in medieval Spain knew all the secrets of the atomic bomb but wisely kept quiet about it.

Some senior Anglicans are known to be concerned at the thought of Prince Charles becoming head of the Church of England, as is likely to happen sooner or later. But in the present confusion over women bishops, gay bishops and flying bishops, it would seem only appropriate that a believer in the wonders of sacred geometry should take overall charge.

No jackets required – just a photographer

It's not surprising that David Cameron should set up at public expense what they are calling a vanity staff, which includes a personal photographer to help to promote his image.

From the PR viewpoint, the vital task is that the Tories, and Cameron in particular, must try to avoid any impression that they are privileged toffs with a great deal of money behind them. That is why Cameron will go out of his way to be photographed dressed casually, avoiding ties and, like Tony Blair, appearing in shirtsleeves whenever possible. Even when going to church on Sunday, the Camerons will ostentatiously dress down.

What is pathetic is to see the new Labour leader Ed Miliband playing exactly the same silly games. A carefully posed photograph this week shows Mr Miliband and his partner Justine proudly introducing their newborn son Samuel to the world.

I don't know if Miliband copies Cameron and employs his own photographer. He too likes to pose for the camera in his shirtsleeves. But on this occasion there was a slight problem, it being obligatory in early November not just to be in shirtsleeves but to be seen sporting a poppy like every other politician. The ludicrous solution was to have both Miliband and Justine wearing poppies pinned to their shirts. No wonder the poppyless baby Samuel bore a distinctly disgruntled expression.

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