THE WEEK IN HIGHER EDUCATION
“The Conservatives are ●●● set to sever links with every Tory university group in the country in a bid to detoxify their brand,” the Huffington Post reported on 4 October. Cutting off your youthful supporters seems a counter-intuitive step towards recovery with young voters, but the website had some valuable context for the confidential internal Tory report that “calls for ‘risky student politics’ to be moved completely out of the party structures”. The recommendation follows “a series of embarrassing incidents involving student groups, including a member of the Cambridge University Conservative Association burning a £20 note in front of a homeless person and Tories at St Andrews setting fire to an effigy of Barack Obama”. Put like that, student politics does sound a little incendiary for the Conservatives.
Poor Jeremy Bentham. ●●● The 19th-century philosopher and founding father of University College London insisted that his body be preserved after his death so that mourning friends could wheel him out at parties. But when it came to it, his poorly mummified head was deemed too ugly to display with the rest of his body. Disgusted curators plonked the head in a safe, from which it has traditionally been removed just once a year to check that skin and hair are not falling off. A different sort of indignity has befallen Bentham’s preserved skeleton (clothed and topped by a wax head), whose presence is sometimes required at UCL council meetings. Now, the real noggin is being troubled again for DNA samples to test theories that Bentham might have had Asperger’s or autism. And at last, the head will finally be put on public display at a UCL exhibition, What Does It Mean to Be Human? Curating Heads at UCL, the university confirmed on 3 October.
Colleges teach Ameri●●● cans to “hate their country and religion”, according to Donald Trump’s eldest son. Defending his father in a speech at a university fundraiser, Donald Trump Jr also seemed to mock universities’ focus on diversity, along with “safe spaces” for women, ethnic minorities and LGBTI students. His father was criticised only because of an “atmosphere of hatred” spawned by liberal university campuses and traditional media, he said. “Today’s conservative speech is violence,” Mr Trump Jr grumbled. “Unprovoked liberal violence is selfdefense. Words have lost their meanings.” Mr Trump Jr’s address, reported on 6 October, was delivered to a private Christian college, Faulkner University in Alabama. A spokeswoman confirmed that Faulkner had paid for the honour, but would not say how much. According to The North Texas Daily, a student newspaper, Mr Trump Jr will get $100,000 (about £76,200) to speak at an upcoming University of North Texas event later this month.
Impoverished students ●●● will be relieved to hear that there’s a solution to money shortages while at university – just spend less! At a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference, universities minister Jo Johnson was asked about the pressure on parents to supplement maintenance loans. He replied: “There are many other ways in which students could fill that gap. They can work…they can also save… they can borrow from their parents if they wish, but it isn’t necessarily a parental contribution.” He added: “Some students want to live very modestly and have a frugal existence, focusing on their studies. Other students may want a different lifestyle, but there isn’t one cost of going to university – it’s a very specific choice that each individual will make.” The comments were reported on 3 October, but much of the gaffe limelight was drawn away from Mr Johnson by his brother, Boris, who chose that day to make crass comments about clearing away dead bodies in Libya.
England’s teaching ●●● excellence framework has a new name: the teaching excellence and student outcomes framework. The Department for Education first used the new title in a specification document for the third year of the exercise, published on 9 October. The change reflects the introduction of new supplementary metrics, including the proportion of a university’s graduates in employment or further study and the proportion above the “median earnings threshold”, as measured by data from the government’s Longitudinal Education Outcomes project. Although the full name changes, the acronym will remain as TEF, the DfE clarified. Which is a shame in a way, as TESOF had good potential to serve as an insulting imperative.