Sizing up Sizer;Jotter

15th October 1999 at 01:00
It was difficult to tell who was more impressed. The unpromising occasion was a grilling by MSPs on the parliamentary audit committee. The "guests" were John Sizer, the funding chief who pours money into FE coffers, and Eddie Frizzell, boss of never-ending learning at the Scottish Executive.

The MSPs grappled impressively with Sizerisms, that unique combination of management-speak and accounting aphorisms.

"A college can be inefficiently effective but not efficiently ineffective," he said.

"I am trying to cope with the professor's soundbites," replied Andrew Welsh, SNP chair of the committee. "That never happened when I was a student."

Nor, presumably when he was an FE lecturer.

Buoyed up, Sizer chanced his arm. "I will give you another soundbite. We must get from data to information: data become information only if people act on them."

The soundbites, appropriately, were clearly heard. This was more than could be said for other Sizerisms. In her best school-marmish admonition, the Tories' Annabel Goldie was forced to intervene at one stage: "I am sorry, convener; when Professor Sizer thinks deeply, he mutters and I find it difficult to hear him."

Convener Welsh urged him on. "This committee longs for you to shout at it," he told Sizer.

Alas there was not much chance of that, which prompted a bit of Goldie scolding. "Gentlemen, we seem to have done a lot of knitting this afternoon, but I am still unclear about the shape of the jumper."

Part of the jumper presumably involves a bit of ducking and weaving between the funding council and the Scottish Executive. Sizer was rash enough to observe that senior officials come between him and ministers.

Frizzell, a most senior official, replied sardonically: "If I had a pound for every chief executive of a non-departmental public body who said that, I would be sunning myself in the Bahamas instead of answering your questions."

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