The Reporter
Issue 488, 24 February 2003
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Send your letters to editor of the Reporter, Vanessa Bridge. Email or send by internal post to press office, 12.67 E C Stoner building


No ’arm in it (Hannah Dee, computing) – “Male blanket octopuses develop an extra arm within a spherical pouch, used for reproduction” (Reporter 487). So they’re called arms now, are they?
Tom Tregenza comments: Yes, but they’re still attached to a sucker.

Space debate (Gavin Reid and others, chemistry) – In response to Rik Brydson and Chris Hammond's letter (Reporter 487) highlighting the problems of the University’s financial model, we can add that the University has now acknowledged that its model might never work for chemistry (and by implication other departments) ‘even if a new facility were to be built on a green field site.’ The space model does not always reflect requirements for ‘equipment’, ‘methods of delivery’ and, staggeringly, even ‘modern safety standards.’ What else is there? The collapse in the unit of resource is problematic enough, but is exacerbated by these fundamental flaws in the space model. Our science and engineering departments are among the best in the country yet we are in grave danger of being abandoned to the nightmare of the distorted internal market. How is this being allowed to happen, who is responsible and why are academic priorities being passed over?

The so-called ‘principle’ of no cross-subsidy between departments is disingenuous, since the resource centre model is discredited by its space component. The key point here is that the unit of resource must bear a more accurate reflection of the true costs of delivering laboratory-based teaching – both undergraduate and postgraduate. Our despair stems from the fact that such a model has never been attempted, furthermore, the question of an allowance against the space charge has never been answered.

The recent Research Council report into the future of chemistry in the UK recognised that is invaluable to scientists in a wide variety of fields and among the most useful of sciences to society as a whole. Importantly, it also identified the need for a growth in the number of graduates. This University is responding to the challenge by closing down laboratories and asking staff to take premature retirement.

Rik and Chris are quite correct: the University needs buoyant, not demoralised, science and engineering departments if it is to move forward and benefit from the new sciences of the 21st century.

As the writers are aware, the University redistributes teaching and research funds allocated by the HEFCE through its own formula based on student numbers and the RAE; both SPEME and chemistry are currently receiving slightly more than the funding council's allocation. To increase their funding would reduce allocations to others. Our resource allocation model is reviewed regularly. The University has never made any compulsory redundancies and has no plans to do so; all staff are invited every year to apply for MIS or early retirement as appropriate. See the response from Judith Gaunt in the Academic Planning and Performance Office. Editor.

When were we a hundred? (Julian Rushton, music) – The piece welcoming the new school of music (Reporter 487) refers to the church ‘converted for use as a concert hall to celebrate the centenary of the Yorkshire College in 1978’. This may puzzle readers who remember that the centenary celebrations took place in 1974. The centenary concert in the Great Hall (3 November 1974) included a new work by the West Riding professor of music, Alexander Goehr, and the programme includes a picture captioned ‘The Presbyterian Church in Cavendish Road, now undergoing conversion as a concert hall’. I understand that the Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall was inaugurated in 1976, shortly before Professor Goehr migrated to Cambridge.

The wording of the article was a little ambiguous. The Yorkshire College of Science was founded in 1874. Although the conversion of the Clothworkers’ Concert Hall was undertaken to celebrate the 1974 centenary, according to records in the University Archive, the hall officially opened in 1978. Editor

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