Wednesday, March 23, 2011


In magic, they say the most important skill is that of misdirection – which is the act of taking advantage of the limits of the human mind in order to give the wrong picture and memory.

As the mind can concentrate on only one thing at a time, the magician uses this to manipulate the "victim's" idea of how the world is supposed to be.

Take, for example, the announcement yesterday on the review of governance in higher education.

Driven by one journalist’s obsession and another man’s petty desire for revenge, one of the week’s main stories on the BBC was about the University of Wales’ validation provision in Singapore.

Yet, around the same time, HEFCW were announcing a cut of nine per cent in the budget for higher education in Wales, which would see funding cut by £65 million for 2011-2012, undoubtedly resulting in at least a thousand job cuts across the university sector unless further efficiencies can be made.

Did the education minister play on the fact that anything that his department could throw towards a compliant BBC on the future of the University of Wales would take precedence over any other news on higher education in Wales?

In fact, when was the last time the BBC passed up an opportunity to highlight such large-scale job cuts in the public sector?

Indeed, why focus on one case of student complaint when other instances  have been largely ignored by BBC Wales (such as Clarke vs Cardiff University where a law student won an extraordinary three-year legal battle with Cardiff University to prove she should have passed her exams).

In fact, student complaints have risen by 37% in the last two years and yet no-one at BBC Wales has bothered to examine this in any detail in relation to higher education institutions in Wales.

In magic, the observer's attention will be grabbed with a coin, or another small and shiny object as a shiny object captures more attention and seems less likely to disappear or to be manipulated.

Then attention is directed away from the object  through a combination of comedy, sleight of hand or an unimportant object of focus, thus providing just enough time for the magician to do whatever he or she wishes to do with the original object.

In the case of the BBC and higher education in Wales, you have to wonder whether they are the victims of misdirection or are, instead, just willing assistants in the show.