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Funding fuels Fergus's fury

Anna Hughes writes the unofficial minutes of her governing body.

Rex, our principal, beams one of his expansive smiles. "I'm sure you will all be interested in the latest thinking from Westminster. The Government is looking at introducing a basic two-year starter degree to give many more young people the benefits of a higher education qualification. We could run the courses."

"It will down-grade the value of a proper degree," growls Professor Fergus McGreggor, our university governor . "It's the job of proper universities like my own to supply the higher educational needs of the country. So-called degrees at two a penny will make us the laughing stock of the educational world."

He's being slightly disingenuous since, on more than one occasion of late, he has been seen leaving strategically placed copies of his institute's franchise degree programme round the boardroom. But home-grown FE degrees! Smoke can almost be seen rising through Fergus's silver locks.

"More bums on seats!" interrupts Alan, the chairman.

"But much better motivated bums!" adds Mary, the teacher governor, warming to the theme. "If we can get the resources and give the lecturers real time for preparation and marking it will inspire us all."

Charles, our industrialist governor, clasps his hands in mock prayer, "I hope they will incorporate numeracy and communications skills. Only last week I interviewed a graduae from one of the red brick universities whose English grammar was a disgrace and who could not even do a simple percentage sum."

"All those funding units!" gloats Silas, our financial director.

Rex relishes the enthusiasm. "The senior management team is going to look into the implications of the new degrees."

"I think we could do better than that," Mary challenges. "For such a major development the board ought to appoint a full-time development officer to look into the idea closely with each department, consider the overall resources and accommodation needed and come up with proposals for a range of two-year degree courses that could be validated by Fergus's university."

"Over my dead body!" mutters Fergus.

"There are wonderful opportunities for developing our site and dramatically increasing our intake." Rex can see his empire of bodies, bricks and mortar expanding rapidly.

"Do I see you as vice-chancellor of a new university?" I tease.

"Anna! Our concern is only for the good of the community."

"We need to take one step at a time," interrupts Alan, "I think it makes very good sense to investigate this important Government initiative. I propose that we adopt Mary's suggestion and appoint a development officer. I am sure we can leave the details to Rex and the personnel department. Those in favour?" Totally outnumbered, Fergus casts the only dissenting vote.

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