THE WEEK IN HIGHER ED­U­CA­TION

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

As each year passes, we might see the first signs of au­tumn in the emer­gence of sub­tle golds and reds on the trees, or in the first frosty chill on the night air. Or we might turn to the pic­tures of new stu­dents “slumped on the pave­ment cov­ered in sick”, as The Sun rev­elled in the tra­di­tional fresh­ers’ week cover­age on 19 September. The news­pa­per fo­cused on fresh­ers at Portsmouth Uni­ver­sity, in­clud­ing “ex­cited teenagers… dressed to kill and ready to dance the night away”, as well as those who were “try­ing to salvage a take­away meal after clum­sily drop­ping their cheesy chips on the ground”. It also noted the com­ments of Frank Furedi, pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Kent, who had spo­ken to The Daily Telegraph about a sep­a­rate scheme help­ing drunk stu­dents make it home by giv­ing them wrist­bands re­mind­ing them where they live. “There’s this as­sump­tion [at uni­ver­sity] that if you get drunk, that’s an ir­re­deemable prob­lem…They should re­ally just chill out and leave stu­dents to get on with stuff,” he said. One for the news­pa­pers to bear in mind next year.

Bri­tish stu­dents’ an­tics look tame compared with hap­pen­ings in France, where armed po­lice in­vaded a Paris uni­ver­sity cam­pus after a fresh­ers’ week prank went dis­as­trously wrong, the Daily Ex­press re­ported on 22 September. With the French cap­i­tal still on its high­est terrorism alert, a group of stu­dents caused panic at ESSEC Busi­ness School, in Cergy, a sub­urb in north­west Paris, by shout­ing that an at­tack was un­der way, the pa­per said. Many stu­dents ran for their lives while oth­ers, fear­ing armed at­tack­ers were on the loose, made tear­ful phone calls to their fam­i­lies, with 30 of­fi­cers at­tend­ing the false alarm. “What’s un­be­liev­able is that this prank wasn’t car­ried out by pri­mary or sec­ondary school stu­dents, but by uni­ver­sity stu­dents,” said Frédéric Lauze, head of the lo­cal pub­lic se­cu­rity divi­sion. “What if a po­lice of­fi­cer had ac­tu­ally shot some­one?” he added of the hoax, which, un­der French law, is a pun­ish­able of­fence that can carry a two-year jail term and a €30,000 (£26,500) fine.

The rise of lux­ury stu­dent accommodation, of­fer­ing fa­cil­i­ties such as gyms and cin­e­mas, is well doc­u­mented – but it comes at a price. The BBC re­ported on 22 September that some Welsh stu­dents were tak­ing out pay­day loans and re­ly­ing on credit cards in or­der to cover rent costs that can ap­proach nearly £200 a week. David Feeney, a prop­erty ad­viser, told the BBC that debt was “ab­stract” to many stu­dents. But NUS Cymru said that stu­dents “just want a de­cent house”. “There are the ones who have the money to look at these ones in Cardiff with gyms and cin­e­mas, but there are many who are strug­gling to make ends meet and just need a home that they can af­ford to live in and run,” a spokesman for the or­gan­i­sa­tion said.

A mas­ter’s stu­dent was barred from study­ing cases of peo­ple who have surgery to re­verse gen­der re­as­sign­ment by a UK uni­ver­sity, which feared crit­i­cism on so­cial me­dia, The Times re­ported on 23 September. James Caspian, a psy­chother­a­pist, was told by Bath Spa Uni­ver­sity that his re­search was “po­ten­tially ‘po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect’” and there­fore car­ried a “risk” to the in­sti­tu­tion, high­light­ing that “the post­ing of un­pleas­ant ma­te­rial on blogs or so­cial me­dia may be detri­men­tal to the rep­u­ta­tion of the uni­ver­sity”. Mr Caspian, who spe­cialises in ther­apy for trans­gen­der peo­ple, ac­cused the uni­ver­sity of fail­ing to fol­low “the most ba­sic tenets of aca­demic and in­tel­lec­tual free­dom of en­quiry”. Bath Spa said that it was un­able to com­ment while a com­plaint from Mr Caspian was be­ing con­sid­ered.

A Mor­mon uni­ver­sity has lifted its six-decade ban on sell­ing caf­feinated fizzy drinks on cam­pus, The Daily Telegraph re­ported on 22 September. An­nounc­ing the end of the pro­hi­bi­tion, Brigham Young Uni­ver­sity tweeted a pic­ture of a can of Coca-Cola ac­com­pa­nied by two words: “It’s hap­pen­ing,” the Telegraph said. The Uta­han uni­ver­sity later con­firmed that it had re­sponded to in­creas­ing de­mand for soft drinks, with the move com­ing five years after the Mor­mon church clar­i­fied that the church health prac­tices do not stop be­liev­ers from con­sum­ing Fanta, Coke and other sugar-laden re­fresh­ments. “I’m a re­ally big fan of caf­feine and just soda in gen­eral so it’s nice to have it on cam­pus with easy ac­cess,” said one stu­dent, while an­other joked that it was the “best day ever”.

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