Editorial from Nature
Simon Jenkins (Standard)
Alan Ryan (Independent)
Jeremy Warner (Independent)
Steve Jones (Telegraph)
"Imperial College is planning to swallow UCL and create a 'super-versity'. This is a businessman's ambition run mad"
" The strategy is that Imperial cuts out UCL's dead wood and pockets its research grants. For Sir Richard a university is a drugs company. He could call his new empire Glob-U or Unron. The rationale is set out in his message to Imperial's staff, written entirely in consultancy Birtspeak.
It is stuffed with globalisation, critical masses, broad profiles and worldwide solutions. Apart from an explicit desire to cut out competition common to all monopolists, the only apparent reason for the merger is the beauty of sheer bigness.
The new "super-versity" would have a research budget of £406 million, which is bigger than that of Oxford and Cambridge combined.
To which I say, so what? On the Sykes thesis, London is riddled with intolerable diversity. It must be absurd to have a National Gallery and a Tate, a Royal Opera and a Coliseum, a Selfridges and a Harrods, a Camden and a Westminster, a Times and an Independent. Merge them."
"London Universities are like German palatinates.. Thousands of serfs can change owners at the whim of a prince or the turn of a hand of cards"
Derek Roberts' reply (4-Nov-02)
"Simon Jenkins is entitled to his opinions about the merits of merger between UCL and IC, but Londoners are entitled to the facts. Rather than a takeover, discussions between UCL and Imperial are on the basis of a merger between equals"
Few hard facts that have been given to UCL staff (never mind Londoners in general). And the experience some of those who are doing the actual negotiations does not bear out the contention of equality.
" The conventional wisdom in business schools is that mergers are bad for shareholders and employees."
"So why do they happen? Received wisdom is that they gratify the egos of the chief executive officers. "
"The notion that doubling their deficits and tripling their managerial problems will make them superior to Oxbridge is implausible. "
"Few big corporate mergers are an unambiguous success. The great bulk of them destroy more value than they create and some end up completely demolishing what had previously been two perfectly healthy, competing companies. The only obvious beneficiaries are the investment bankers who concoct these things. By the time the balloon goes up, they've long since pocketed the fee and moved on to other things. If they play their cards right, they'll earn the fee all over again untangling the mess they helped to create.
That mergers continue to get done at all is a triumph of hope over experience. But then deal making is a lot more fun than just running the business, and there is never any shortage of corporate egos only too eager and willing to give it a whirl. "
"Jeremy Bentham, the 19th century utilitarian and the spiritual father of UCL, was a great iconoclast but he would have hated the destructiveness of most modern mergers. Experience of them is overwhelmingly that they don't work. Why should we believe this one will?"
"New Gargantua will need to rebrand (although we who speak from the pants of the beast still rather like the label used against our founder, Jeremy Bentham; "That Godless Institution in Gower Street"). A title that accepts both UCL's tea-bibbing history and IC's new-found megalomania might be the "Grand, Imperial and Nebulous Giant Establishment, the Roberts-Bentham Institute of South Kensington, United in Torment" - or ginger biscuit for short (the substitution of C for K comes from Latin, the language of academic discourse).
The new identity provides both a coat of arms (gold, two scaly lezards combatant vert) and a motto, Iunctus in Tormentum. Others may prefer Consignia College, or Enron University. Most of us, though, just wish we could get back to diplodocus's day, in the Jurassic, 70 million years before Tyrannosaurus rex appeared on Earth."