Archive for February 6, 2010

Results and Transfer Gossip

Posted in Finance, Football, Science Politics, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 6, 2010 by telescoper

I had to skip the usual trip to the Poet’s Corner last night and go home early because the general state of fatigue I’ve been in suddenly morphed into a fever. I went home at 5, went straight to bed, and it was only Columbo’s frantic pawing that woke me up several hours later. I had not only missed a leaving party for Kate Isaak, who is now off to work for the European Space Agency, but also slept all the way through Newcastle United’s splendid 5-1 hammering of Cardiff City in last night’s Coca Cola Championship match at St James’ Park.

Despite home advantage, and the fact that Newcastle won the corresponding away fixture here in Cardiff, I thought this tie would be pretty difficult for Newcastle so I was overjoyed to see the result when I finally roused myself from feverish slumbers. It seems that Newcastle’s recent signings in the January transfer window actually came good, especially Wayne Routledge who gives the side a much-needed injection of pace down the wing. Cardiff City, on the other hand, didn’t buy any players at all because they need all the cash they’ve got to pay off an outstanding tax bill and thwart various winding-up orders that have been served on them. The turbulence behind the scenes seems to have worked its way onto the pitch: the blues are definitely the most erratic team in the division, winning 6-0 only a week or so ago and then getting thrashed 5-1 yesterday.

And just to make  my allegiances clear, I do have a soft spot for Cardiff City and do want to see them do well – except when they’re playing Newcastle. Once a Geordie, always a Geordie…

Results of a different kind were the topic of discussion around the School of Physics & Astronomy yesterday, as it was the official day for tutors to hand the results of the 1st semester exams to their tutees. It’s always great to see students leaving their tutor’s office with a big smile on their face, which happened rather a lot yesterday.  Some, of course, got more disappointing news, but to them I’d just say that it’s only half way through the year so there’s plenty of time to recover. Stick at it, and don’t let setbacks get you down.  I hope to see even more happy faces in June than I did yesterday….

Football teams like Cardiff City aren’t the only things to be enduring financial uncertainty these days, either. Even the Premiership clubs of the university sector are feeling the pinch. Many institutions around the country are planning departmental closures and redundancies, but you know it’s serious when it hits the big colleges in London. Last week University College (UCL) and Imperial both announced plans for large-scale layoffs, and this week they were joined by King’s College which plans to sack 205 academics, including 30 in the School of Physical Sciences and Engineering.

The background to all this is that the cuts announced by Lord Mandelson in December have now been officially passed on to English universities by HEFCE, but one suspects also that in some cases this is being used as a cover for other management decisions. Imperial, for example, is going ahead with the purchase of new property in Wood Lane for a cool £28 million at the same time as cutting academic positions costing a fraction of that.

Amid all the gloom, however, it is nice to be able to report some good news. Cardiff University was almost declared bankrupt in the 1980s when it failed to get to grips with the cuts imposed by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative  government which were similar in scale to those being implemented by New Labour. It was brought back from the brink, however, and since then has managed its finances with almost excessive caution. Other universities have scored spectacular successes in the League tables by spending money freely on fancy research initiatives and overseas campuses, but in the new reality of austerity Britain these may turn out to have been risky ventures.

By contrast, “Safe and Steady” has long been the motto in Cardiff. We might not have done brilliantly in the RAE but the insitution has an extremely sound financial base that should put it in as good position as any to withstand these difficult times. Moreover, we’ve just heard that the University management has agreed that the School of Physics & Astronomy can go ahead and make  four new academic appointments, and that these will be accompanied by substantial startup packages with which the new appointees can begin to equip their own laboratories. This involves a considerable investment in the School from the University’s central coffers and I think it’s fantastic news. I doubt if many UK universities are going to be investing so heavily in physics at this time, so this is an extremely welcome development. It’s always nice to buck the trend.

The adverts will be going out pretty soon, so the transfer window is about to open.  I look forward to meeting our new signings in due course, and I’m confident that they’ll help us climb up the League.

If only I could say the same for Cardiff City…