ACADEMIA MUST DO BETTER

Those who thought that those running our universities might just be setting a good example to young people have had to think again as the greed of over-paid vice-chancellors at Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Sheffield, Huddersfield, Roehampton, Leicester De Montford Bournemouth, Falmouth and Winchester has been exposed.

Now it’s the turn of some marketeers at our academia to face criticism, for making claims for their employers they could not prove. First, in June this year, was Reading, that was forced to withdraw its baseless claim that it was in the top 1% of institutions globally. Now another six have had to scrap their marketing campaigns after being criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Falmouth also listed above, where the vice-chancellor Anne Carlisle pockets a creative £298,000 a year, claimed to be “the UK’s number one arts and creative university” Teeside claimed it was the “top university in England for long-term graduate prospects”, the University of East Anglia claimed to be “in the top five for student satisfaction”, the University of Leicester claimed to be “in the top 1% in the world and the University of West London claimed it had been named, (by the University of West London ?) as “London’s top modern university – and one of the top ten in the UK” Up in Scotland the University of Strathclyde claimed its physics department had been ranked as “number one in the UK” All complete tosh.

Perhaps before choosing a university students should look at what their swollen fees are paying the bloated vice-chancellors and what the ASA thinks about the honesty of their claims?

AND THERE’S MORE

University ethics might also be a consideration for choice.

A recent investigation by the Daily Mail indicated that at least 24 universities, all members of the university’s Russell Group, have hired wealth screening investigators since 1997 to snoop on millions of former students to establish their suitability as potential donors, looking at their income, class and likelihood of leaving money to the university when they die.

A number of charities that similarly snooped on potential donors, usually without their knowledge, were deemed to have broken the law and were fined earlier this year. The Information Commissioners Office, with the backing of the Department for Education is now launching its own investigation into the universities, which could leave them facing huge fines.

The shamed universities of the Russell Group setting a bad example to others are: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Imperial College, Kings College, Leeds, Liverpool, LSE, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Queen Mary, Queens Belfast, Sheffield, Southampton, UCL, Warwick, and York.

Some of the main objectives of the Russell Grouo are to maximise the income of its members and to reduce government interference, presumably in such tiresome matters as data misuse and advertising claims. There is no requirement for members to improve ethical standards.

BROADBAND CON

A Which? survey of broadband speeds reveals that some providers are claiming speeds that are up to 62% higher than they really are.

The survey looked at more than 700,000 speed checks carried out in the first three months of this year and compared them with the speeds claimed by broadband providers. The survey worked with the median average speeds, calculated by ranking all the speeds in order and finding the middle one.

In 52% of the local authority areas checked median speeds were at least 10% slower than those claimed. And in 35% of areas speeds were at least 205%slower than claimed. Worst case was in Ashfield, Notts where the shortfall was 62%.

Which? are inviting broadband buyers to use their free speed checker service to determine if they are being seriously conned by their provider, and if they should be switching. And the survey has scored a win as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will be implementing a new requirement for broadband providers to provide more accurate claims from May 2018.

OCH AYE

A move to set a minimum price per unit for the sale of alcohol has been approved by the Supreme Court in Scotland, making the country the first in the world to adopt the measure. This follows a failed legal challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association in a wrangle over European law that lasted five years.

It is thought that the minimum price will be at least 50 pence per unit. Units are calculated by taking the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) percentage, multiplying it by the amount in millilitres (ml) in the bottle, glass or can and dividing by 1,000.

Example: A pint/568 ml can or glass of strong lager at 5.2% ABV has 2.95 units (568 x 5.2 = 2953.6 divided by 1,000 = 2.95 units) At 50 pence per unit this means a minimum retail price of £1.48, cheap for a pint in a pub, not so good for a can in a supermarket.

Example: A 700 ml bottle of wine at 12% ABV has 8.4 units (700 x 12 = 8400 divided by 1,000 = 8.4.) At 50 pence per unit this means a minimum retail price of £4.20, whether sold in a wine bar or supermarket.

Example: A 700 ml bottle of whisky at 40% ABV has 28 units of alcohol (700 x 40 = 2800 divided by 1,000 = 28) At 50 pence per unit this means a minimum price of £14 per bottle, cheap for good single malts, not so cheap for own-brand supermarket whiskies.

It is hoped that the minimum pricing of units will cut down the incidence of alcohol misuse which costs Scotland £3.6 billion a year and resulted last year in 1,265 alcohol-related deaths. Certainly it could affect the consumption of strong white ciders, such as Frosty Jacks with an ABV of 7.5% and available in three litre bottles (22.5 units) for £3.59, or 16 pence per unit, in Iceland stores in Scotland, and elsewhere.

So will we see Scotland’s heavy drinkers carrying out shopping raids across the border for some cheap units when the boom comes down?

PLANE SILLY

Meanwhile travellers by plane are emerging as problem drinkers, with 10% drinking 15 units or more on their flight.

Reasons given are nerves, the easy availability of alcohol on flights and that some just see it as part of their holiday, The biggest problem for all is that the alcohol has twice the intoxicating effect at 30,000 feet up than on the ground, so a big increase in disruptive passengers, the main reason for aircraft diversion, say the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)

According to a survey of nearly 1,500 British fliers by Columbus Direct insurance company 40% said they drank on flights, with one in six of those feeling ill as a result, one in twenty needing help from cabin crew and one in ten needing medical treatment after landing.

Drunk passengers guilty of causing a flight diversion can be billed for up to £80,000 by the airline and face a jail sentence of up to five years.

ENDOWMENT FLOPS EXPOSED

Tens of thousands of homebuyers who were persuaded to take out mortgage endowment policies with insurance companies in the 1970’s and 1980’s are now counting the cost as the expected value has crashed over the last 25 years.

Some of the worst cases are plans sold by Standard Life, Scottish Life, General Accident, Scottish Widows, Legal and General, Norwich Union, Friends Provident, Scottish Amicable, Prudential, Royal London Life and AXA Sun Life, all sold by heavily commissioned sales executives as expected to be worth more than £100,000 at maturity and all showing a 70%+ shortfall on the expectation. A Standard Life plan expected to mature at £110,339 is worth just £23, 814, a shortfall of nearly 80%

STEPHEN DRAWS THE LINE

Actor Stephen Tomkinson (DCI Banks) has turned down lucrative voice-over work offers from a credit card company.

This is, he says, “because I believe that firms like theirs prey on vulnerable people. I don’t want to be persuading viewers to get further into debt. Loan companies make it all sound very easy and their customers don’t think it all through. I can’t be part of that deception”

Now you know.

ADS IN THE DOCK

o An ad for Surrey Police that suggested hearing a crying baby was not a reason to dial 999 has been branded as irresponsible and banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

A complainant pointed out that noise from children crying could be a sign that they were in danger.

 

o A Royal Mail ad that was intended to raise awareness of identity theft has been banned by the ASA for being too frightening.

The ad showed a gang of balaclava-wearers threatening bank staff with baseball bats in a robbery, an approach that the ASA said was “excessively threatening and distressing”. It was shown during Coronation Street.

 

o Virgin Active apologised to a ballet dancer who appeared in an ad for their gyms after staff at the company airbrushed out her permanent cochlear implant.

Simone Welgemoed, 27, who was born deaf was furious with the omission, made without her permission, and said that it made it look as though Virgin were only happy to welcome to their gyms people without an obvious disability. Virgin Active agreed and reinstated her original image for their ad.

TIME TO STOP THE BLACKMAIL

Now our train driver’s unions have won a 30% wage increase for their poverty-stricken members after a year of holding travellers to ransom and damaging lives to fill their pockets it will be interesting to see what happens next. Emboldened by the sentiments of J. Corbyn who, completely understandably, says his paymasters should have more power will they now hold more successful strikes for another 30%, or 50%, or 100%?

Of course, our country being members of the EU and beholden to EU law has helped our unions build their power and it is no secret that they are very keen to see this continue.

Which is probably another good reason for anyone who feels that the unions have too much power to back the Brexit. For once we are able to make our own laws again some serious democratic consideration can be given to whether we can all afford to allow the above rot to continue.

Then let joy be unconfined…

HOLIDAY FRAUDSTERS JAILED

A couple from Liverpool are the first to be jailed for making false claims of food poisoning on their holidays.

Paul Roberts, 43, and his partner Deborah Briton,53, sobbed in the dock as they were jailed for fifteen months and nine months respectively for claiming that two consecutive two week holidays to Majorca in 2015 and 2016, staying at the same hotel, had been ruined by severe gastric illness and suffering from “diarrhoea, stomach cramps, lethargy, fever and nausea”. This was despite posting on social media that they had enjoyed “sun, laughter and fun”.

The action was brought by Thomas Cook, who the couple were claiming nearly £20,000 from Holiday sickness claims have increased by 500% – 700% and bogus claims are thought to cost the travel industry £240 million. The frauds are fuelled by touts working for a fee from the solicitors bringing the cases.