THE WEEK IN HIGHER ED­U­CA­TION

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

A grad­u­ate who sued the Univer­sity of Ox­ford for £1 mil­lion af­ter he failed to get a first has had his claim dis­missed by the High Court, the BBC re­ported on 7 Fe­bru­ary. Faiz Sid­diqui ac­cused the in­sti­tu­tion of “in­ad­e­quate teach­ing” be­cause of a short­age of tu­tors, claim­ing that his sub­stan­dard 2:1 had cost him en­try to Har­vard Law School and sub­se­quently led to a “failed” ca­reer in law. Mr Jus­tice Fos­kett said that, while Mr Sid­diqui de­served “sym­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing”, he ought to per­haps “lower his ex­pec­ta­tions at least for the time be­ing”.

Stu­dents’ union of­fi­cials rep­re­sent­ing 10 univer­sity cam­puses across Canada have been left baf­fled af­ter they were sent anony­mous pack­ages con­tain­ing sex toys, along­side mo­bile phones, charg­ers and, er, light bulbs. Each cam­pus rep­re­sen­ta­tive has re­ceived as many as 15 pack­ages since Novem­ber, con­tain­ing goods val­ued at more than £500, the BBC re­ported on 5 Fe­bru­ary. The bizarre gifts were un­re­turn­able to Ama­zon, and po­lice said that they had failed to iden­tify the sender – although one the­ory sug­gests that it could all be a mar­ket­ing ploy by a Chi­nese com­pany. The Univer­sity of Man­i­toba made the smart move to auc­tion off the items to raise funds for LGBT groups on cam­pus. Pre­sum­ably the bids were kept as anony­mous as the sender.

Stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Glas­gow wit­nessed an un­ex­pected re­ac­tion dur­ing a chem­istry lec­ture, the Daily Mail re­ported on 6 Fe­bru­ary. Wit­nesses said that two older men, who had walked in at the be­gin­ning of the ses­sion, were ini­tially passed off as ma­ture stu­dents. But with just 25 min­utes to go be­fore the lec­ture’s end, con­cen­tra­tion lev­els must have flagged, and the pair were filmed fist-fight­ing among the Bute Hall pews. “I didn’t want to cause a fuss and men­tion it to the lec­turer,” said one stu­dent. “They just started shout­ing, hit­ting and chok­ing each other.” Cam­pus se­cu­rity were called, and the guests left the class pre­ma­turely.

A scuf­fle of a dif­fer­ent na­ture oc­curred at UCL, where aca­demics voted over­whelm­ingly to back a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence against univer­sity lead­er­ship, the Fi­nan­cial Times re­ported on 7 Fe­bru­ary. In a meet­ing to dis­cuss in­ves­ti­ga­tions be­ing held into an al­leged breach of key de­ci­sion-mak­ing poli­cies, staff ex­pressed dis­sat­is­fac­tion over UCL’s ma­jor ex­pan­sion projects, which in­clude build­ing a new cam­pus in East Lon­don at a cost of £483 mil­lion. Rex Knight, UCL’s vice-provost for op­er­a­tions and public en­emy num­ber one among for­mer stu­dent rentstrik­ers, ar­gued that the univer­sity had “lit­tle choice” but to in­crease its ca­pac­ity to stay com­pet­i­tive. Mr Knight’s burn­ing ef­figy be­came a sym­bol of de­fi­ance dur­ing stu­dent protests two years ago. Here’s hop­ing the 94 per cent of staff who voted “no con­fi­dence” don’t get any ideas.

It’s back to school for one aca­demic at South­ern New Hamp­shire Univer­sity, af­ter her de­ci­sion to fail one of her stu­dents on a geo­graph­i­cal de­tail back­fired, Buz­zfeed re­ported on 8 Fe­bru­ary. So­ci­ol­ogy un­der­grad­u­ate Ash­ley Arnold and her fel­low class­mates were tasked with com­plet­ing a project in which they were asked to com­pare a “so­cial norm” in the US with an­other coun­try. Af­ter dis­cussing the dif­fer­ences in so­cial me­dia us­age in Aus­tralia with that of her home coun­try, Ms Arnold was shocked to learn that she had failed the pa­per. The prob­lem, ac­cord­ing to her pro­fes­sor: “Aus­tralia is a con­ti­nent, not a coun­try.” A tense email de­bate en­sued, with the teacher re­fus­ing to ac­cept the er­ror. A Twit­ter apol­ogy from the univer­sity con­firmed that it had “re­placed the in­struc­tor” and re­funded Ms Arnold’s tu­ition fees. “To our friends in Aus­tralia, we know that you are a coun­try and a con­ti­nent,” a spokes­woman clar­i­fied.

What started as a seem­ingly in­no­cent PR stunt – Mr Darcy swip­ing Tin­der to find a match, emo­tion­ally charged love let­ters sent via What­sApp – has ended in a se­ri­ous case of cold feet for UCL lu­mi­nary John Suther­land. The emer­i­tus Lord North­cliffe pro­fes­sor of mod­ern English had pre­vi­ously en­dorsed a range of new edi­tions of Jane Austen nov­els and other clas­sics, rewrit­ten to match the dat­ing prac­tices of the 21st cen­tury. But Pro­fes­sor Suther­land cracked, ad­mit­ting that he hadn’t ac­tu­ally had much to do with the project and that he didn’t much like the re­sults. “I was glad to be in­volved with it and pick up a use­ful penny or two,” he told The Times on 8 Fe­bru­ary. “Don’t be too harsh on me.”

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