HIGHER education’s favourite smoothie was given a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday’s Honours last week. So arise Sir Malcolm, Sir Malcolm Grant, the departing provost at University College London in Bloomsbury. He puts opening the UCL Academy School in Swiss Cottage as one of his finest achievements during his time in charge.
He explained reason recently in a filmed interview with Pi, the student magazine on campus: “I thought it was wrong to sit around saying state eductation is not good enough to produce students good enough to come to UCL. A lot of that discourse goes on and the government says you’ve got to open your doors wider and if the students apply you’ve just got to let them in.”
Pi is every now and then accused by the more irreverent student publication at UCL, the Cheese Grater, of being a bit sappy towards Sir Malcolm. The CG once had a front cover in which a Pi journalist is clinging onto his backside... you can imagine. Still, while the interview did not ask more challenging questions on why UCL put its academy school so close to Haverstock and Quintin Kynaston or why it played rigid hardball with Camden Council by refusing to enter an open contest to win sponsorship of the project, the killer subject is reached in the final seconds. The ‘tache. Nothing says Sir Malcolm like his moustache. He shaved it off once for a charity lark in 2005 but it’s been a virtually ever present.
“It was quite fun but it does regenerate, quite quickly,” he tells Pi, about the time he got the razors out. “But it does regenerate quite quickly. I’m really quite fond of it. My wife refuses to allow me to shave it off. When I was about 19 or 20, the fashion was long hair, I had it down to my shoulders and a Frank Zappa moustache. It was black in those days, so was the hair actually. It looked so completely mad.”