Letters: University funding

There will be more university funding scandals


It seems that, at long last, the Higher Education Funding Council has woken up to the importance of the effective and proper governance of universities ("University accused of £36m student scam", 23 December). It is just a pity that it has taken a huge scandal to force HEFC to take belated action.

To me, as a former further education college governor, it always seemed a strange anomaly that while the further education sector had sensible selection procedures for all our governors, and inspection teams checked up on these, a number of universities still use their "old pals networks" – and even when there is a pretence of professionalism the reality is that selection procedures are actually still remarkably amateurish. The London Metropolitan scandal is likely to be the tip of a rather large iceberg.

Paul Twyman

Birchington on Sea, Kent

As one who has taught undergraduates in the UK, and is currently teaching in Australia, I am saddened by the tone of your leading article (23 November), suggesting that students from poorer background are less likely to embrace a university course, and should, therefore, be treated differently from the privileged students.

In my experience, the majority of the students have come from working-class families. These students cheerfully admit that their parents clean the homes of the better off and stack shelves in supermarkets. However, one cannot help but notice their pleasure when they point out that it is their ability, and not access to private schooling, that has gained them a university place. They do not expect, nor do they receive, any special consideration in their assessment.

Sam Nona

Visiting Senior Lecturer,

University of New South Wales


Scotland leads the way on climate

It was refreshing to read a more optimistic assessment of the likelihood of success at the forthcoming UN climate change summit in Copenhagen next month (23 November). It was however inaccurate to state that Norway has the world's most ambitious target for cutting CO2 emissions, a 40 per cent cut by 2020 on 1990 levels.

In June of this year the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, committing Scotland to legally binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (not just CO2) by at least 42 per cent by 2020 on 1990 levels, and 80 per cent by 2050.

The Act contains a number of other ground-breaking precedents that other countries would do well to follow, such as including emissions from international aviation and shipping from the outset. While Scotland's Act has received little attention from UK-based media outside Scotland, there has been substantial international media and political interest in these early and important precedents.

Recent statements reflecting the dire inertia of the leading industrialised nations including America, Australia and Canada, has left campaigning bodies such as Stop Climate Chaos Scotland deeply concerned that many of the world's industrialised nations have still not woken up to the potentially devastating consequences of climate change.

Other nations must follow the examples set by Scotland and Norway and commit to their own substantial action at Copenhagen before it is too late.

Mike Robinson

Chair, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, Perth

As the UN Copenhagen Climate Change conference approaches, it is surely time for us all to think what we can do personally to reduce emissions. It is so easy to point the finger at other countries and do nothing oneself because our individual contributions seem so trivial. It is also "comforting" to question the data, since this doubt might prolong the wasteful status quo.

A little more of the Kennedy mentality is needed: "Think not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." Leading by example is so much more effective than pushing with blame.

Acting more sustainably is not invariably painful, since it may save money and be good for communities. We have set up a really simple car-sharing scheme for outpatient appointments and visits at our local Ipswich Hospital which if extended nationally could save over £500m in petrol.

We have pragmatic incentives such as cheaper and guaranteed hospital parking, along with a free coffee or tea while you wait for your car-sharer. If we start with saving money and helping people, then the enviromental benefits will follow.

Dr John Havard

Saxmundham, Suffolk

It's not clear if Michael Petek really believes in his suggestion that we bomb China's coal-fired power stations if they don't start reversing their expansion (letter, 23 November). Most of us know China's per capita emissions are still well below those of western Europe, let alone the US and the Anzac countries, and that China's energy demands partly result from rising western imports of Chinese goods.

So how do we tackle our demand for manufactured goods, wherever they are causing emissions?

For one, we should be drawing up accounts of our national emissions footprint including all imports plus aviation and shipping, and have declared goals for reducing it.

With regard to manufactured goods and many raw materials, we must either radically increase VAT or duties on them, with corresponding cuts in income and labour-related tax take, or incorporate them into a national carbon rationing system.

Jim Roland

London NW11

Without a trace of irony, the BBC news shows footage of the "once in a millennium" floods in Cumbria. This is promptly followed by footage of all the other "once in a millennium" floods that have happened this century.

When are we going to wake up and notice that the environment is telling us we've got things dreadfully wrong? Is someone in power going to make some real changes towards tackling climate change or are we going to keep reporting "once in a millennium" events every year and refuse to see what's under our noses?

Helen Phillips


Blair and the march to war

Bruce Anderson's column on the Iraq inquiry reproaches Robin Cook for not presenting a robust Foreign Office line to Tony Blair ("Iraq is inseparable from the personality of Tony Blair", 23 November).

Cook stopped being Foreign Secretary in May 2001, before 9/11. In 1998 Cook told the House of Commons that Saddam had hidden weapons of mass destruction and he authorised the RAF overflights on northern and southern Iraq, including attacks on Iraqi military targets.

As a minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 2001 to 2005 I never heard a senior official or ambassador express doubts or criticisms of the need to confront Saddam. I notice some have expressed their views after retirement. Other than a lawyer at the Foreign Office who resigned in protest at the march to war, no other official did so in order to show disapproval of Blair's policy.

Why do some discover the courage of their opinions only after pensions and retirement jobs are secured? Perhaps the Chilcot team might ask the question.

Denis MacShane MP

(Rotherham, Labour)

House of Commons

Bruce Anderson overstates the case for war with Saddam.

The only reason given to the public was weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam was playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship for reasons best known to himself. Regime change and aiding our US ally were not aired in the days leading up to the time of our attack.

The UN inspectors were on the verge of being allowed back into Iraq, and their subsequent (that is after the conclusion of formal hostilities) inability to find any WMD was later brushed aside as somehow less relevant than ridding Iraq of a tyrant in an attempt to give the war some legitimacy. Nobility be blowed!

Martin Shaw

London N14

Lib Dems in a hung Parliament

You report that the Liberal Democrats "would support whichever party wins the most seats if both the Tories and Labour fail to secure an overall majority after the next election" (news, 23 November). Not so. What Nick Clegg actually said was: "Whichever party has the strongest mandate from the British people . . . has the first right to seek to try and govern, either on their own or with others."

It is quite conceivable that under our ludicrous electoral system one party may have more seats but another may have more votes. Such a result should confer a mandate on the party with the largest number of votes. In any case, it is up to the largest party (however it be defined) to choose whether to seek to govern as a minority or to approach another party for formal or informal coalition.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that such a result might produce a Labour-Conservative coalition; the two parties have much in common, and a precedent was set recently in Germany.

Steve Travis

West Bridgford, nOTTINGHAMshire

Legal decisions for dementia sufferers

I read with interest your reader's letter titled "Dementia carers must go to court" (23 November). The Justice Secretary has recently agreed to a review of the Court of Protection rules, and we will look carefully at the results of this.

However it is important for me to clarify that attorneys do not apply to the Court of Protection when registering a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). These powers are normally registered with myself at the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), and not the Court of Protection.

There are very few instances when the Court of Protection might become involved in the registration of an LPA or EPA – in the main where another party objects to the registration; or where the particular provisions made would make an LPA or EPA inoperable or invalid. In practice, the vast majority of applications to register Enduring and Lasting Powers of Attorney proceed without any involvement from the court.

LPAs provide an effective means to plan for a time when you might not be able to make decisions over your own affairs. Since October 2009, the Office of the Public Guardian has introduced simpler forms and clearer guidance for LPAs.

Martin John

Public Guardian


Flood warning

Before the people of a blighted Cumbria get too excited about the Prime Minister's promise of lavish financial assistance, they might wish to remember that in the first full week of his premiership, terrible floods inundated Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and Doncaster. And what was Gordon Brown's response? Next to nothing.

Godfrey H Holmes

Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Poetic presidents

To answer June Helen Rogers' question "Who ever heard of a politician interested in poetry?" (letter, 23 November), Dylan Thomas had two fans among recent American presidents, namely Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Ex-President Carter campaigned to have Dylan commemorated at "Poets' Corner" and opened the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea in 1995.


Llanhowell, Pembrokeshire


Victoria Summerley comments on the discomforts of Clapham Junction (Opinion, 19 November). In the railway boom of the 1850s and 1860s, one railway was refused permission to open since the "public convenience" had not been completed. Why is it that I have found no public loos at Clapham Junction station with its 22 platforms, whereas Templecombe, Somerset, with two platforms only, has a public loo?

Martin Mottram


Football cheats

Why does Professor Blackshaw (letter, 23 November) not recognise that suspending a game to issue red or yellow cards for deliberate fouls, halting play in response to the agonised rolling playacting of players scarcely touched by an opponent and waiting for a penalty given for some blatant piece of diving in the box are far more disruptive to the "dynamics and flow of the game" than a few moments of occasional video technology could ever be?

Allan Friswell

Cowling, North Yorkshire

Godless thoughts

With regard to the BBC ruling excluding the non-religious from the Thought for the Day slot on the Today programme (report, 18 November), I'm pleased to observe that we atheists, secularists and humanists have many more than just one thought in a day.

Robert Smith

Merstham, Surrey

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own