Campus Life™

An ultra-realistic addition to the panoply of campus-based game apps

Following the success of Sim University we now have Campus Life™:

Create the hottest new sorority on campus!

Throw parties with the best girls on campus as you build your own sorority house! At this college, the party never stops as you recruit star athletes, crazy partiers and the smartest girls around! Have a luau on the beach, host sorority formals, and live the campus life you always dreamed of!
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– DESIGN the best house on campus – just the way you want!

– MAKEOVER your hair and makeup to go from frumpy to FASHIONISTA!

– Buy FABULOUS clothes: from high fashion to cute workout wear!

– RECRUIT smart, pretty and popular girls to join your house and make new friends!
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– Host AWESOME EVENTS – from beach parties to raves to black tie soirees… and many more!

– DECORATE your house with great stuff, from luxury spas to chocolate fountains!

– Run the best sorority on campus and you can WIN THE CAMPUS CUP!

– Play for free, yes FREE, forever!

This really does sound like a staggeringly accurate representation of campus life as we all know it. Looks great!

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Somewhat tenuous graduation and London 2012 Registrarism posting

Registrarism

Graduations: A bit like the Olympics but then some

Graduation is one of the most significant events in the university calendar. It is a slightly bizarre and rather ritualistic event. Everyone (well, nearly everyone) dresses up, in gowns and/or posh frocks or newly acquired suits.

I have attended two of my own and over 150 others at different institutions. Whilst I was a bit grumpy about attending the one for my undergraduate degree (I decided I was doing it just for my parents), pretty chipper about the second (after nearly 10 years’ hard graft on my PhD I genuinely felt I’d earned it) and having skipped the one for the Diploma in Management Studies in between I do really rather like them now.

Whilst there is something to be said for the total experience of the US style commencement, I do think the UK model is hard to beat in…

View original post 1,553 more words

Oh dear, it’s the top Registrarism posts of 2012

Possibly the least requested best of 2012 list

Given that everyone does this kind of thing at this time of year I thought I would join in this highly efficient means of listing previous postings. Yes, it’s the list of the most viewed Registrarism posts of 2012! Here we go then…it’s rankings, rankings, guns, pets, MOOCs, governance, rankings and yet more rankings all the way.

The Times: 2013 University League Table 22,674 views
Sunday Times 2012 University League Table 12,628
The Times: 2012 University League Table 10,654
Sunday Times 2013 University League Table Top 20 9,624
Ranking in Latin America 4,133
Pet Soundings 3,157
The Times, Sunday Times, Guardian and Complete University Guide League Tables 2011-12 3,085
The Times, Guardian and Complete University Guide League Tables 2012-13 2,274
2013 Complete University Guide League Table 2,166
Another World Ranking: High Impact Universities 2,113
More Guns on Campuses 1,817
LSE and Libya: The Woolf Inquiry 1,758
MOOCS: 12 Reasons for universities not to panic 1,591
The four UK University League Tables of 2011 1,545

Let’s hope there’s a bit more variety in 2013.

One from earlier this year

Registrarism

The Imperfect University: Some people really don’t think much of administrators

Last year I wrote a piece for Times Higher Education on the problem with the term “back office” and the often casual, unthinking use of it in order to identify a large group of staff who play a key role in the effective running of universities but who are the first to be identified for removal or outsourcing in financially challenging times. But what do we mean by the back office?

In a university context, it is generally taken to mean those staff who are neither engaged in teaching or research nor involved in face-to-face delivery of services to students. So they might be, for example, working in IT, human resources, finance or student records. Or they might be the people who maintain the grounds, administer research grants or edit the website.
Too often, their somewhat anonymous roles mean…

View original post 1,324 more words

University Adds “Puppy Room” to Fight Finals Jitters

Now this is real innovation in supporting the student experience

A top story from Hack College on a university which has brought in a “Puppy Room” to help students fight exam stress:

Aww. Aren’t they cute? Now I’m ready to face that exam

 As finals week looms closer and the stress begins to pile, most college students see self-destructive habits rise considerably, in the form of eating worse, sleeping less, and more often than not, drinking too much. But one Canadian university has found a new, novel, and undoubtedly popular way to help combat stress in a safer, and altogether fuzzier way: a room full of puppies.

That’s right. Puppies.

Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada has made what could be the most popular addition to any university in history in the form of a room filled with puppies, solely to help students relax and drive away the finals week stress. The Puppy Room will be open to students of Dalhousie University from December 4th – 6th thanks to Therapeutic Paws Of Canada, a non-profit organization that brings dogs and cats to schools, residences and hospitals in order to promote happiness and relaxation.

“It’s a great idea,” said student Michael Kean, who suggested the puppy room to the school. ”There’s no downfall about therapy dogs. Students, we’re stressed out, don’t know what to do, and they’re fluffy. It comes down to that.”

Looking to the future, this idea could be expanded to cover a wider range of stressful activities for students and could include a variety of animals to ensure individual preferences are met. The first university to do this in the UK would be bound to win a THE award.

Anyway, this is the last piece of nonsense here in 2012. There will be more in the new year. Have a relaxing break (with or without puppies).

Is Life Too Easy on Campus?

Shouldn’t things be a little harder than this?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on the changing nature of student accommodation in the US.

It’s a wee bit like Broadgate Park

Residents at a new rental community in Orlando, Fla., lounge around a resort-style pool in private cabanas. They practice their golf swings at the putting green and meditate in a Zen garden. Videogamers sip complimentary coffee while playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” on a multiscreen television wall. Now, they’re facing final exams.

Welcome to University House, a $65 million private college dormitory that just opened near the University of Central Florida. Built by Inland American Communities Group, University House is one of the latest upscale communities sprouting up in college towns—including East Lansing, Mich., Tempe, Ariz., College Station, Texas, and others. Developers say that colleges provide a steady stream of new customers every year, and that students—and their parents—are willing to pay for luxury amenities.

This luxurious development in the US looks extreme but in the UK there have been many developments of high specification student accommodation in university towns and cities across the country. Many will have fond or not so fond recollections (or imaginings) of student life which is a bit more like this:

An end to the traditional student experience?

This is real student life

This example of Opal student accommodation in Leeds is not untypical:

This is actually in Leeds

This is actually in Leeds

This state of the art student residence has all en suite accommodation, with a choice of standard, deluxe or studio rooms. Standard and deluxe rooms are in cluster flats of 3,4 or 5 so living with your friends is not a problem!

In fact each student room comes with a pledge – apart from your low cost gym membership – there are no hidden charges. So you know when you come to stay at Opal 1 you can budget with confidence.

On site there is a splendid leisure centre with Jacuzzi, steam room and swimming pool, with up to the minute equipment available in the gym area. There is also a launderette and common room with Sky projection so you can watch your favourite show – or football match!!

Close to the city centre and the Universities, Opal 1 student accommodation is an obvious choice for students wishing to enjoy the nightlife Leeds has to offer.

And when you come back you will rest comfortably knowing that there is extensive CCTV coverage and 24/7 security on site for your protection

This kind of accommodation is seen as a good bet for property investors too, as the Independent reports:

Developers such as Vita Student have been quick to fill the gap for luxury student accommodation. The company is in the second phase of a £27m project at Tinlings in Liverpool – home to three leading universities. Vita is converting an existing building into 120 units, all fully managed, comprising self-contained studios and a smaller number of two-, three- and four-bedroom suites. Prices start from £60,450 with an assured annual return of 9 per cent for the first two years.

Similarly in Leeds, The Edge, an IconInc development, offers “hotel-standard” studio and one-bedroom apartments costing from £78,500, with facilities including a library, den, gym and concierge service and the same 9 per cent yield for two years to reel investors in.

So, perhaps not all students will enjoy putting greens or outdoor pools but there is certainly a better standard of accommodation available than the traditional Young Ones style shared student property. The key issue for many students though will be affordability – this kind of residence doesn’t always come cheap.

Does this make life just too easy for students then? Or offer too many distractions from academic study? Perhaps there is a possibility of students enjoying these home comforts too much. But surely it’s not unreasonable for students to hope for a decent standard of accommodation. And after all, the romantic rose-tinted view of parents of their time in grotty student bedsits is really just misplaced nostalgia – there’s really no reason why their children should have to put up with poor housing as a result.

The Imperfect University: the first chapter

Because universities are difficult, but worth it

This year there have been a dozen posts in the Imperfect University series. Covering leadership, staff mobility, regulation, governance in Scotland and Virginia, not so revolutionary online provision, the CDBU and more regulation, there was I hope something of interest for many in here somewhere.

The Imperfect University

An introduction to the series

Who should lead universities?

What kind of people do universities need as leaders – is appointing a top academic enough?

More and more regulation

Despite the rhetoric we always seem to end up with additional rather than reduced regulation in higher education.

Reviewing higher education in Scotland

Comments on a recent review of university governance in Scotland.

Do we need a level playing field?

Some discussion on this frequently used argument.

Massive Open Online Confusion?

On why Massive Open Online Courses aren’t perhaps as revolutionary as is claimed by some.

Governance Challenges at the University of Virginia

On the removal of the President at the University of Virginia. Messy.

The Cult of Efficiency

A look at a book from 1962, Education and the Cult of Efficiency, which offers a salutary warning about the hazards of imposing inappropriate models in education.

Graduation – a bit London 2012?

London 2012 crowd

London 2012 crowd


A comparison between graduation events and the feel good Olympics. With other observations about graduation.

Mobility Matters

Developing and moving professional services staff.

First for the chop

Why there really aren’t too many administrators in universities. Honest.

How not to defend higher education

Commentary on the launch of the Council for the Defence of British Universities.

More to follow in 2013.

True Crime on Campus §26: Best of 2012

True Crime on Campus §26: Best of 2012 and vote for #1

It’s the time for some end of year reviews and 2012 has been another busy year for our hard working Security staff. Here are some of my true crime on campus favourites from the year together with an opportunity to vote for the report you think is the best.

0343 A student contacted the Security Control room for advice on how to treat a black eye. Security attended. The student stated that they had been struck in the eye by a flying chicken nugget while in McDonald’s in the City. Security checked the eye and gave advice.

2105 Report of a male lying on the ground near to the Lodges on Beeston Lane. Security attended on arrival the male was sitting up. He stated that he was a member of staff but had felt a bit “wonky” after attending a formal event at a Hall of Residence. Security took the male home as he was still unsteady on his feet.

22:15 Security were called to Hall as someone was in the bar with a bag of ten swords. The student claimed that they were used in traditional English dance and he brought them onto Campus to promote this. Security removed swords as they could be used as weapons. Warden informed. Security to follow up.

0045 Report of a male lying unconscious in a female toilet in the Hallward Library. University Security attended the Student was woken up and found to be very drunk. The Student thought the toilets were his room in his Hall of Residence. Security escorted the Student out of the Library where he was able to make his way back to his Hall.

0305 Report that a Conference Delegate had cut himself shaving and required First Aid. Security attended and provided First Aid. The Delegate did not require further medical attention.

1615 Patrol Security observed that a student’s window at Hall had a picture of a penis drawn on it with an obscene caption under it. The student was not in his room but a message was left for him to clean the window. The Warden is to be informed.

04:40 Security received a report from a concerned mother regarding her daughter; a student resident in Hall who was suffering from chest pains. Security had to wait for the student to return as she was in Tesco buying mints. On arrival the Security contacted the NHS Direct line and handed the phone over to the student to describe the symptoms. Security advised the student to call back if the symptoms got worse.


1358 Report that a male was filming cheerleaders who were on the Sports Centre Field getting ready to take photographs for a calendar. The cheerleaders were changing from one outfit to another and exposing themselves in the process. The male was in a vehicle in the Sports Centre car park with a hand held camcorder in one hand… Security attended and the male was detained. Police were called and arrested the male. The cheerleaders have been told that they should use the changing rooms if they wish to change. Security will be following up on this arrest with the Police.

02:30 Security at Sutton Bonington reported that there was a small group of sheep that were on the loose along the road near Future Crops. Other staff members assisted with rounding the sheep together.

2350 Patrol Security Officers discovered a very happy drunk in a wheelie bin at the rear of the Maths Building. The male was eventually found to be staying with his girlfriend in Derby Hall. The male was returned to his girlfriend who was relieved to see him safe and well apart from being very drunk.

0100 Report that damage had been done in a kitchen in Normanton House Sutton Bonington. The person concerned was dressed as a Tiger and after throwing food and smashing some plates left before they could be identified.

0755, 1323 A male contacted the Security Control room stating that he had discovered the meaning of life and urgently needed to speak to a Professor in Physics. After discussing the matter at length with Security the person’s details have been passed onto the Police to carry out a welfare check.

2010 Report of a large number of students running around the Trent Building. Security Officers attended. The students explained that they were playing hide and seek. The Hide and Seek Society President was found by Officers and spoken to. Officers conducted a search of the building and located all the other hiding students. I understand that Officers declined their turn to go and hide

A Security Officer who lives in a University rented house at Highfields Sports Centre arrived home on the 13.08.12 to find that a bungalow that is being built adjacent to the rented property had been damaged by the Air Ambulance helicopter hovering over it causing part of the newly built walls to collapse. Details to Estates. Contractor is following up with Notts/Lincs Ambulance.

Aren’t we supposed to be the good guys?

0048 Report of a person dressed in green, possibly a Ninja Turtle, in Portland Building attempting to gain entry to the Portland Cafe. Security attended. The cafe doors had been forced open but at present it is not clear if anything had been stolen. Security are to follow up.

So which is your favourite? I’ve got half a dozen special ones for you to vote on below for no real purpose. Or you could suggest your own.

Let’s hope for more of the same in 2013.

More on Latin American rankings

More details on Latin America from the QS rankings

A post from some time ago noted the new found enthusiasm in Latin America for rankings. This has been borne out by the publication in 2011 and now 2012 of a specific Latin american league table by QS.

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The introduction to the table notes that

QS University Rankings: Latin America was published for the first time in 2011, this generated a huge amount of interest, both within the region and further afield.

This is perhaps unsurprising: Latin America is a hugely dynamic, fast-growing continent, that has recently identified higher education as key to its development, yet in global rankings it has mostly been conspicuous by its absence.

As in 2011, the rankings adopt the principles of the QS World University Rankings, augmented with measures of particular regional application.

Academic and employer reputation surveys remain the backbone of our approach, in combination with data on research productivity and citations, student/faculty ratio, the proportion of staff with a PhD, and web presence.

It is an exciting period for Latin American universities, with the growth in scientific research, increased for higher education, increased student mobility and the rise of private universities all accelerating the pace of change.

This year’s rankings help further our understanding of the comparative performance of universities throughout the region.

They also shine a light on pockets of development that have previously been beyond the scope of international rankings.

So the top 20 from QS is as set out below (full details can be found here). And whilst the top institution here, the Universidade de São Paulo, is ranked at 139 in the world in the latest QS table the general trend seems to be an upward one.

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1 Universidade de São Paulo – Brazil

2 Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile – Chile

3 Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp) – Brazil

4 Universidad de Chile – Chile

5 Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) – Mexico

6 Universidad de los Andes – Colombia

7 Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) – Mexico

8 Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

9 Universidad de Concepción – Chile

10 Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH) – Chile

11 Universidad de Buenos Aires – Argentina

12 Universidad Nacional de Colombia – Colombia

13 Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais – Brazil

14 Universidade Federal do Rio Grande Do Sul (UFRGS) – Brazil

15 Universidade Federal de São Paulo – Brazil

16 Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN) – Mexico

17 Universidade Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquita Filho” (UNESP) – Brazil

18 Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

19 Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) – Mexico

20 Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina Santa María de los Buenos Aires – UCA – Argentina

The Imperfect University: How not to defend higher education

Simple: ignore administrators (or worse)
TIU
The recent launch of the “Council for the Defence of British Universities” (or CDBU) offered some fascinating insights into a particular corner of British society. Like a strongly worded round robin letter to the Times made flesh it attracted some big names  from Sir David Attenborough to Baroness Deech. A rather wry report of the event was published over at WonkHE:

At the root of many contributions appears to be a reaction against the suggestion that academics ought to justify their own existence or the funding they receive. If Plato’s philosopher kings were not expected to appear before the Audit and Accountability Scrutiny Committee of Ancient Greece, why on earth should The Great and the Good of the British Universities?

It doesn’t end here. We hear praise for the University Grants Commission Lloyd George created in 1919 and “lasted us well” for 70 years before its untimely abolition, and later, Francis Bacon’s 17th century “partition of the sciences”. The message is clear – time to go back to the future and the further the better.

Back to the future, Doc

Universities really do need to go back to the future it seems

In addition  a piece in THE on the launch of the CDBU noted that:

The council’s initial 65-strong membership includes 16 peers from the House of Lords plus a number of prominent figures from outside the academy, including the broadcaster Lord Bragg of Wigton and Alan Bennett. Its manifesto calls for universities to be free to pursue research “without regard to its immediate economic benefit” and stresses “the principle of institutional autonomy”. It adds that the “function of managerial and administrative staff is to facilitate teaching and research”.

This is exactly what university administrations are like

This is exactly what university administrations are like

This rather dismissive comment from the launch manifesto about administrators has been reinforced by the comments by Professor Thomas Docherty (someone for whom I have high regard) who has penned a provocative piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education about the new body. In this article he observes that there are, apparently, two remarkable things about this council. First, it has a membership of very distinguished academics (always a good start for a campaigning organisation that). But there is more:

The second notable thing is the council’s unique mission: It is the only group that exists to put university education back into the hands of universities, and to do so with the determination to reinstate the primacy of academic values. The council has issued a Statement of Aims that should form the basis for how the nation approaches the management of universities, their financing, and their social, cultural, and economic importance. Central to the aims is university autonomy and respect for the independent demands and exigencies of scholarly work.

Corporate management might conceivably be good for some businesses, but it has no place in the university sector. Our administrators need to serve the primary academic functions, but increasingly—and in this they simply replicate a more general social malaise—administrations exist to perpetuate themselves, like some kind of carcinogenic cell that threatens the academic body.

The council hopes to exert influence in Britain, but the common good it wishes to serve goes beyond our borders. I hope American scholars also find that the moment is ripe for the reassertion of academic values and join us in our work. We’ve already received suggestions about the formation of sister councils outside Britain, and we’d certainly welcome an American counterpart. As is clear, the threats to academic values are not just local to Britain: They are global.

Now as has been noted here before, there are rather a lot of administrators in universities. No doubt some in the CDBU would say too many. Are all of these people actively organizing against the fundamental interests of higher education? Are they essentially concerned with protecting themselves and bureaucracies at the expense of academics? Are they unable to support or even understand academic values? Are they simply stooges of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills? Are all administrators merely unwitting dupes in thrall to a neo-liberal marketisation agenda? I don’t think so.

In most institutions, the primary concern of the professional administrator is to support and encourage the best academics to do what they do best, to minimise the distractions and to reduce the unwelcome and bureaucratic incursions of the state into academic life. Administrators are concerned more than anything with protecting academic staff (often with some difficulty) from the worst excesses of the increasingly challenging and turbulent world in which universities operate.

In order for academic staff to deliver as best they can on their core responsibilities for teaching and research it is vital that all the services they and the university need are delivered efficiently and effectively. Universities do not seek to hire and retain world-leading scholars in order to get them to maintain IT systems, organise data returns to statutory agencies or look for good deals on electron microscopes. These services are required and professional administrative staff are needed to do this work to ensure academics are not unnecessarily distracted from their primary duties.

So, in some ways I agree with the CDBU proposition that the “function of managerial and administrative staff is to facilitate teaching and research”. However, it is the tone and place of this within the opening statements which originally troubled me and now causes even more alarm following Professor Docherty’s rather unfortunate comments.

Protect and survive

Protect and survive

Put simply, it looks to me as if, for the very great and extremely good of the CDBU, administrators are, at best, an afterthought. That would be the most benign interpretation one could put on the statements from the initial meeting and more recently from Professor Docherty. Because really it does seem that administrators are to be neither seen nor heard (check out that initial list of members again) and have no place in doing anything as important as defending higher education. Despite the critical role we play in the operation of HE, it seems we are really to be seen as humble functionaries with no part to play in the grand drama of university defence.

If a university prefers to see administrators merely as a servant class or indeed decides that many can be dispensed with through radical surgery to ensure that academics retain the whip hand then it might find it will struggle before too long. Whilst the nostalgia-infused senior common room debates and the delightfully sweet taste of golden age governance will undoubtedly sustain many of the leading participants of the CDBU it won’t be too long in their universities before the infrastructure and professional staffing required to maintain a 21st century institution atrophies and dies. So, the cancer-causing administrators may be excised but it will turn out that this is rather dangerous medicine that the Council has decided to prescribe. Indeed it looks a bit like retreating to 19th Century quackery when modern health care is available. All in all I fear it is a recipe for decay and decline and, you have to say, really isn’t a very good way to go about seeking to build a coalition in defence of universities.

Some Vice-Chancellors will do anything for money…

…provided it’s for a good cause

A bit late in the day but I did want to register how impressive this fundraising effort is from the Vice-Chancellor of De Montfort University. The video, which is intended to raise money for LOROS and PROSTaid, features over 1,000 students from DMU too and can be seen here:

Further details can be found on the DMU website.

And it has recently been confirmed that a team led by the University of Nottingham’s Vice-Chancellor has raised over £250k:

After cycling the length of Britain this summer, the Life Cycle 2 team from The University of Nottingham have successfully raised over £250,000 to widen access to higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Life cycle 2
The total raised was a fitting reward for the 12 members of staff who endured headwinds, punctures and falls during a 1,100-mile journey on behalf of ‘Nottingham Potential’, a package of interventions designed to transform the lives of young people.

Led by Vice-Chancellor Professor David Greenaway, the team spent 14 days in the saddle, with the specific aim of providing scholarships and bursaries to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and supporting projects targeted at changing opportunities for young people, helping more into further and higher education.

For some you suspect that two weeks on a bike might be preferable to seeking to emulate Professor Shellard’s performance but in any case it is, I think, really impressive to see Vice-Chancellors taking a lead on this kind of fundraising activity.

(PS not quite such an achievement but worthy of note – this is the landmark 600th post here on Registrarism – thank you for reading.)

A New Type of University?

Or Back to Victorian Values?

Salman Khan, founder of the online enterprise which provides video lectures, the Khan Academy, has set out an alternative vision for education in a new book, The One World School House. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on this exciting new publication (which I must admit I am unlikely to buy):

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Khan’s bold vision for education includes a chapter on higher education:

In a chapter titled “What College Could Be Like,” Mr. Khan conjures an image of a new campus in Silicon Valley where students would spend their days working on internships and projects with mentors, and would continue their education with self-paced learning similar to that of Khan Academy. The students would attend ungraded seminars at night on art and literature, and the faculty would consist of professionals the students would work with as well as traditional professors.

“Traditional universities proudly list the Nobel laureates they have on campus (most of whom have little to no interaction with students),” he writes. “Our university would list the great entrepreneurs, inventors, and executives serving as student advisers and mentors.”

In the book, Mr. Khan also advocates for a separation of universities’ teaching and credentialing roles, arguing that if students could take internationally recognized assessments to prove themselves, the playing field would be leveled between students pursuing different forms of higher education. Although students would not be graded in the imagined university he describes, they would compile a portfolio of their work and assessments from their mentors.

“Existing campuses could move in this direction by de-emphasizing or eliminating lecture-based courses, having their students more engaged in research and co-ops in the broader world, and having more faculty with broad backgrounds who show a deep desire to mentor students,” he writes.

Port_Sunlight

Actually this really isn’t so much of an alternative vision as a fervent wish for a different world coupled with the demand for a “level playing field” which here means removing the elements which means that universities offer a genuinely higher education. It also has an echo of the Victorian patricians like Lever and Salt providing out of hours education for their workforce.  So it really doesn’t sound quite as visionary as all that.