It’s a small world after all…

We’re not really the scientific sort around here, except in one significant way. We like to try to understand how things work. In particular, we’re interested in getting to grips with one significant mystery. The Wye Park project involves a disparate group of people, in different parts of the country, and different organisations. How on earth did they all get to know each other in the first place?

Bob Worcester

Through the oddest of connections sometimes. Take Sir Robert (Bob) Worcester, above, a well known and jovial figure in British political and media life. He founded the polling company MORI, and was, for many years, a perennial figure on the telly whenever elections came around. He has lived in Kent for many years, and now owns Allington Castle outside Maidstone.

Though in retirement, having sold MORI on to a new owner, Sir Bob remains a busy man. Recent jobs, for example, have included…

  • Membership of the board of Locate in Kent, the local government quango designed to attract inward investment to the county. Long term readers will know that LiK is quite a melting pot for people involved in Wye Park. ICL’s estates director David Brooks Wilson and KCC’s planning chief Pete Raine were board members too. The organisation’s chief executive during that time was another man from Maidstone, Paul Hudson, who is now moving to John Prescott’s office to advise the Deputy PM on planning matters, one of which will doubtless soon be Wye Park.
  • A continuing non-executive directorship of the Kent Messenger Group, the selfsame media outfit that studiously downplayed the whole Wye Park project for months, until finally realising a few weeks ago it had a story happening under its nose that couldn’t be ignored. Better late than never, I suppose, though I am sure they will say the kicking they got here had nothing to do with their seeing the light

So Pollster Bob knows Planners Pete and Paul, and Developer Dave too, and sits on the board of the county’s largest media group which has a pretty spotty record of covering the story. Just another tea-party connection among the Kent gentry, really?

Very probably. But consider one more significant fact. Imperial are desperate to put an end to that whole nasty business the village college once did called ‘teaching’. In future, the college wants ‘research-led’ activities only, a tight, highly profitable lab of people in white coats making millions for the college from links with industry, and not a single undergraduate in sight.

For the benefit of any Imperial administrative staff wishing to implement this ruling simply and expeditiously, we have summarised it in a graphic below.

Wye Intake
Yet… undergraduate studies still exist, just, in the form of the Applied Business Management degree, which mostly seems to appeal to foreign students on short-term visas. This is a business Imperial is a bit sniffy about. Nevertheless it is recruiting students for the three-year course this year, which means someone will have to teach them at least until 2009.

But who? Not Imperial, that’s for sure, which has cut a deal to get rid of the whole shebang to the Canterbury-based University of Kent. It will take over the course and its staff and from the 2007 intake on this will be a UoK degree. Being a caring, consultative college, Imperial did ask the existing intake what they thought of this idea, naturally.

A report to the Imperial Council reveals, ‘The students currently on course… had strongly indicated that they believed that the degree would be damaged if the course were no longer part of Imperial College. This would, however, appear to be based upon a misunderstanding since the course would continue to be taught by the same staff in association with Imperial College.’

They didn’t misunderstand a thing. After this year students will do the same work but get a degree issued by a university with nothing like the London college’s international standing.

What has all this to do with Sir Bob Worcester, formerly of Mori and many a TV studio? Well, this associate of Messrs Raine and Brooks Wilson and Hudson has just got himself a new job. Next August he will go to Canterbury Cathedral and be inaugurated as… the new chancellor of the University of Kent!

You know people often say this is a very big county. But sometimes it feels like a very small one indeed. It may well be that the University of Kent is Wye’s most promising hope of getting the college resuscitated into what it’s supposed to be… a place of quality university teaching, with a vibrant undergraduate and postgraduate community.

So congratulations, Sir Bob. Now could you kindly pull out that very well connected address book of yours and please make some calls…


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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