Prof Richard’s secret is out: Yes, he PowerPoints too

We speculated the other day about whether Imperial’s deputy rector, Professor Leszek Borysiewicz, resorted to the voodoo of the dreaded Microsoft PowerPoint presentation in order to put across his message when he briefed the college’s management board on the Wye Park project last November.

As it turns out, if he did, he was only following in his master’s footsteps. Below we reproduce Sir Richard Sykes’ personal internal PowerPoint presentation arguing for the merger of Imperial and University College London to create ‘the complete pack’, a ‘major force’ in world universities capable of ‘responding rapidly to new opportunities’ and of ‘a size which justifies major investments by funders (public and corporate)’. Oh and you also get that horrible old piece of tripe he trotted out for the Concordat too, the promise to create ‘global centres of excellence’, which are presumably like local or national centres of excellence except, er… global. But that’s enough of the Microsoft Office 97 jargon wizard for now.

You can download Sir Richard’s stirring visual argument for the merger at the foot of this article, or, if you don’t have a PowerPoint viewer, just click through the slides below (they are 1.8mb of Flash file so will take a little while to load). Stand by for such gripping gems as ‘examples of complementarity’, ‘synergy’, and a dusty old cliché I first heard from Apple Computer in Silicon Valley circa 1992, ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it’. Good grief…

Unlike Imperial, UCL also teaches English language and literature, rather well too. Perhaps this is significant. This private presentation is dated November 21, 2002. Three days before, the merger talks collapsed entirely, principally because UCL’s executive felt it couldn’t sell the plan to the college’s shop floor of stroppy academic staff who had greeted the idea of being swallowed up by the Sykes empire with outright horror.

One sympathises. Would you want to climb into bed with someone who uses the word ‘complementarity’ either?

Oh, and one final point which came in too late for the profile of Richard Sykes produced here earlier this week. In addition to being the highest paid university chief in the UK, at £350,000 a year, this talented gentleman is also recipient of a pension from his time running GlaxoSmithKline. In 2000 this was reportedly running at the rate of £494,000 per annum though, since it is undoubtedly index linked, one should expect it to be somewhat higher now. Still this is all a comedown from his days at the helm. His salary at Glaxo Wellcome in 1999 was £1,183,000, and he also got a £2,434,000 bonus from share sales. Mr Chips in a university gown he ain’t…

The argument for Imperial ‘merging’ with UCL


About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome, Pieter Vos in Amsterdam, adaptions of the Sarah Lund stories in Copenhagen, and versions of Shakespeare worked for Audible.
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