On Thursday a small ceremony symbolically marked the latest phase in the creation of the corporate-educational complex that calls itself Plymouth University.

The Vice Chancellor (Wendy 'I-love-shopping' P) finally got around to visiting our building. Not to meet the staff (heaven forfend, she avoids staff like we've got leprosy) but to 'open' the branch of Santander bank which is squatting in the corner between Link and Smeaton buildings.

Of course the branch has in fact been open for some weeks - but it takes the VC a while to catch up with things - possibly her chauffeur had time off and she couldn't leave her fortress in Portland Villas (yes, she is known to demand her chauffeur driven car to get from her suite to the Roland Levinsky building - a distance of all of 300 yards, which is obviously too far to waddle and carries too much risk of running into real people or staff)

The new bank branch occupies the space which was previously a very popular and well used (during term time of course) cafe run by the redoubtable Sally of the catering staff. Outside term time the cafe was closed and Sally would be seen in other catering outlets on campus. However a year ago the Uni decided to sack all of the in house catering staff and 'tupee' them over to an outsourced operation.

When it came to this cafe the Uni demanded a rent based on the floor space and assuming that the cafe would be open and making a profit for 12 months of the year - a "commercial" rent. Of course in that location there is no demand (apart from the dozen or so staff who work in nearby offices - but we don't count because we are a cost and not 'customers') outside term time so the outsourced management said it was not viable and closed the cafe.

The new catering operation also managed to completely messy up the Loafers sandwich bar which used to make fantastic sandwiches in freshly baked (or at least finished) french sticks as you queued. Now the oven has gone and the sandwiches are shrink wrapped (and more expensive). The queue is still there though as there are few other places left on campus to get food. The staff canteen 'Isaacs' has been closed and there is almost nowhere left where you can go for a quiet bite and a break.

It would be interesting to know on what basis the Bank is renting the space. Are they being charged the same "commercial" rent that the caterers could not afford? I imagine that there is even less demand for the opportunity to give money to a bank than there ever was for the cafe during termtime or not. It will be interesting to see if this mini-branch remains open during the vacations.

Presumably there is more money to be made moving money around for students than there is from providing them with food and drink and a friendly smile.  What more could you expect from the Corporate University.

Ironically the cafe was called 'The Bank Cafe' because as people who have been here a long time will remember there used to be a branch of Nat West bank there 15 or so years ago when it was still a Polytechnic. But in those days the Link building also housed the staff canteen and life was different.