In another twist in the recently triggered college merger proposal saga, Imperial College rector Richard Sykes appeared in a news segment on the BBC flagship news programme Newsnight.
The segment was aired on Tuesday 15 October, the day after news of the intended merger broke. The theme of the segment, which concluded the programme, was the state of higher education in Britain, and featured the proposed merger prominently alongside threats of funding cuts from other institutions.
As expected, Sykes was controversially and provocatively outspoken in his views. Admitting that he would not be unhappy if some smaller universities were to fail, he asserted that the failure of unpopular universities ought to be determined by market forces.
Sykes' other comments were loaded with corporate-speak, with phrases such as "knowledge-based economy", "critical role in the economic necessities of the nation" and "compete on a global stage" liberally thrown around. He also affirmed his conviction that Britain needs to host at least one of the all-round top universities in the world in order to compete on a global scale.
Margaret Hodge, Minister for Higher Education, also appeared on the show, proudly applauding and endorsing the proposed merger, backing the Rector to the hilt. Nobody can be in any doubt, therefore, as to how these plans are being received in government circles.
Nobody from UCL offered any comments, nor did it appear that any were solicited from any staff or students of either institution.
[Editor's note: The author is a postgraduate engineering student and a former C&G Academic Affairs Officer 2000-2001. The full interview can be viewed on the BBC [web site|http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsnight.]]