THE WEEK IN HIGHER ED­U­CA­TION

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

Al­though ev­ery­one is won­der­ing if Don­ald Trump can last a full four years as US pres­i­dent, there is also the slightly more triv­ial mat­ter of whether he can hold on to all his hon­orary de­grees.

The Guardian re­ported on 18 Au­gust that Mr Trump could face be­ing stripped of an hon­orary doc­tor­ate, given to him in 1988 by Penn­syl­va­nia’s Le­high Univer­sity, af­ter a for­mer stu­dent launched a pe­ti­tion ar­gu­ing that his “re­jec­tion of di­ver­sity and his lack of re­spect for the dif­fer­ences of oth­ers around him stands in di­rect op­po­si­tion to the prin­ci­ples laid out” at the in­sti­tu­tion. The pe­ti­tion was launched in the wake of the con­tro­versy over com­ments made by Mr Trump about far-right protests in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia. If the de­gree is re­scinded, the Don­ald would still have three other hon­orary doc­tor­ates, two of which come from Lib­erty Univer­sity in Vir­ginia. But he has al­ready been stripped of an­other hon­orary de­gree by Robert Gor­don Univer­sity, in Aberdeen, over his election cam­paign call for Mus­lims to be banned from en­ter­ing the US.

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Trump’s hon­orary de­grees may last longer than Eng­land’s univer­sity funding sys­tem. Last week, an­other fig­ure jumped on the “you know what, this sys­tem of high tu­ition fees ac­tu­ally might be a bad idea” band­wagon. The lat­est de­trac­tor is Theresa May’s for­mer chief of staff Nick Ti­mothy, who said in an ar­ti­cle for The Daily Tele­graph that the sys­tem of high fees and state loans amounted to an “un­sus­tain­able and ul­ti­mately point­less Ponzi scheme”. Choos­ing to com­pare higher ed­u­ca­tion funding to the in­fa­mous in­vest­ment fraud did not seem too orig­i­nal: a quick search of the Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion ar­chives re­veals that stu­dent loans and Ponzi have ap­peared in the same sen­tence sev­eral times in the past five years. But the pres­sure for re­form does seem to be ratch­et­ing up to new lev­els daily.

“Boozy uni ben­der” read the head­line in The Sun on 18 Au­gust, above a re­port on how Russell Group uni­ver­si­ties had spent more than £1.4 mil­lion on al­co­hol over the past three years. The Univer­sity of Cam­bridge and eight of its col­leges topped the list with a £593,454 spend, ac­cord­ing to Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests. But The Sun was silent on how much of this was pre­sum­ably pur­chased for in­sti­tu­tions’ rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing events arms. A Russell Group spokesman told the news­pa­per that in the past five years its mem­bers had “spent more than £30 bil­lion on staff and in­vested £9 bil­lion in facilities to en­sure that stu­dents left univer­sity hav­ing had a world-class learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, not sim­ply a glass of wine at grad­u­a­tion”.

Any school-leavers hop­ing for a more dis­ci­plined ap­proach to learn­ing will prob­a­bly find it at the Royal Mil­i­tary Academy Sand­hurst, which has an­nounced that new re­cruits will be able to study for a BSc in lead­er­ship and strate­gic stud­ies, in part­ner­ship with the Univer­sity of Read­ing. Paul Nan­son, the academy’s com­man­dant, told The Daily Tele­graph on 14 Au­gust that the pro­gramme was aimed at “the young­ster who says I al­ways wanted to join the army but I felt the pres­sure to get a de­gree”. As­sess­ment will mainly be through ex­ams and writ­ten work – mean­ing that ex­pec­ta­tions of mod­ules on boot scrub­bing and bed­mak­ing may be mis­guided.

The fa­tal stab­bing of a Chicago hair­styl­ist was part of a sex­ual fan­tasy con­cocted in an on­line cha­t­room be­tween a mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy re­searcher and a Univer­sity of Ox­ford ad­min­is­tra­tor, who planned to kill him and then them­selves, a court has heard. Wyn­d­ham Lathem, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy-im­munol­ogy at North­west­ern Univer­sity, and An­drew War­ren, a se­nior trea­sury as­sis­tant at Somerville Col­lege, Ox­ford, ap­peared in a Chicago court charged with the mur­der of Mr Lathem’s boyfriend, Tren­ton Cor­nell-Du­ran­leau, af­ter hand­ing them­selves in af­ter an eight-day man­hunt,

The Guardian re­ported on 21 Au­gust. The bond hear­ing heard that Mr Lathem and Mr War­ren had cor­re­sponded for months about the plan, with Mr Lathem pay­ing for Mr War­ren’s ticket to the US. Prose­cu­tors said that Mr Lathem let Mr War­ren into his condo be­fore start­ing to at­tack sleep­ing Mr Cor­nel­lDu­ran­leau, with Mr War­ren later join­ing in with a lamp and knives. Why Mr Lathem and Mr War­ren did not fol­low through on the al­leged plan to kill them­selves was not clear. The case con­tin­ues, and both of the ac­cused will have a chance to en­ter pleas at a later hear­ing.

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