16 November 2009

The apostrophe

Even in the rarefied atmosphere of the academic journal, the apostrophe can still be a problem - check out a few random papers here and there and you'll find instances that have escaped the editorial process. Given that, it's nice to come across a clear guide to what and what not to do: How to use an apostrophe

I once sat down with a couple of Master's students and explained the whole thing to them in a very similar way and they claimed that no one had ever explained the apostrophe before - primary school, secondary school, university degree, and they had remained blissfully ignorant. Could it be that their teachers either didn't know or didn't care?

I'd only disagree with one thing - the author says, 'If in doubt, don't use an apostrophe': I'd prefer him to have said, 'If in doubt - find out!'

02 November 2009

Universities and government

Isn't it wonderful what governments will do to avoid paying properly for higher education? Here's the latest smokescreen to emanate from super-minister Mandelson:

Lord Mandelson will today unveil a major plan for universities designed to aid the country's economic recovery and pave the way for an overhaul of student tuition fees.

The new framework for higher education will set out a 10- to 15-year strategy affecting every aspect of university life, from the quality of teaching to ways of funding research that will force universities to become more competitive.

Over the past 27 years or so we've had initiative after initiative - all designed to accomplish what Mandelson now thinks needs to be accomplished. We've had the Research Assessment Exercise, the Teaching Quality Assessment, the Higher Education Academy, schemes to increase university interaction with local schools, other schemes for adult learners, skills initiatives and more. And now this idiot who probably has no idea of what has been done in the past, wants to revisit it once again! Take the Academy, for example, its brief is:

The Academy's role is to be a nationwide focus for enhancing teaching, learning and students' experiences in higher education. We work with institutions, discipline groups and individual staff within the four countries of the UK.

Of course, there will be no new money for Mandelson's plans; in fact, universities are likely to get less because of the government's inability to regulate the banking business, which has brought about the current financial chaos. Nor will there be any increase in taxation, because next year brings a general election, nor will there be an increase in student fees, for the same reason. So, once again, university staff will be asked to do the impossible and the higher education system in the UK will continue its current decline.

Perhaps Lord Mandelson should read a few university annual reports (and that of the Academy) before jumping into something he evidently knows nothing about.