Peter Lampl, chairman and founder of an educational trust, declares that too many teenagers are going to university, creating a massive problem for the nation's finances. Yet he's only saying what many families have been saying for years.
English universities were traditionally centres of excellence for the cream of the cream. By throwing open the doors to half of all school leavers, universities have devalued themselves and the degrees they award. They land young people with massive debts which they are often unable to repay, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill. Sir Peter is a fan of “earn while you learn” degree apprenticeships, and who can argue with that? But he's up against massive vested interests, from universities charging students eye-watering fees, to building companies and landlords making millions in the student-apartment industry.
I am no great authority on the Far East but even I know that the rickshaw, as I said in this column last November, is “ widely seen as a symbol of colonialism and oppression.” So what on earth possessed London's upmarket Ivy restaurant to screen an advertising video featuring clumsy Japanese and Chinese caricatures fooling around with a rickshaw?
As night follows day, the Ivy has had to apologise profusely this week for its video, condemning it as “totally inappropriate and culturally insensitive.” And yet, for all its sins, the video has succeeded in the first law of advertising - get the product known. The Ivy had more headlines, TV and social-media coverage in a single day over this rickshaw furore than most restaurants get in a year.
Another headline-making event of the week was Millie the dachshund getting stuck in a wine rack. She was eventually released by firefighters at her Cambridgeshire home but, as one report solemnly informed us: “It is not known how Millie became wedged in the wine rack in the first place.” I dare say Millie, in the manner of small and agile dogs, will gladly demonstrate.
In reporting Millie's plight, BBC Cambridgeshire followed the ancient provincial news rule of getting the location into the headline with: “Sausage dog gets stuck in Waterbeach wine rack.”
I was reminded of the old and possibly apocryphal tale of the hard-drinking Labour minister George Brown who, during a speaking tour of Northern towns, tumbled off the stage. The local newspaper headlined the incident: “Blackburn crowd fallen into.”