THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

Some stu­dents have been known to fill time be­tween lec­tures catch­ing up on the lat­est episodes of Corona­tion Street, EastEn­ders or Neigh­bours, but now they have the op­por­tu­nity to spend their ac­tual con­tact time on a soap opera set. A new de­gree in con­tin­u­ing drama pro­duc­tion is due to start this au­tumn at the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Lan­cashire, com­plete with a mock set fea­tur­ing a pub and newsagent. The set has been built at Uclan’s Pre­ston cam­pus for the two-year fast-track de­gree course, which will also pro­vide ac­cess to a func­tion­ing tele­vi­sion stu­dio, the Daily Mail re­ported on 23 March. With theatre and film de­gree cour­ses now com­mon, a soap opera course should be no sur­prise, but it may only be a mat­ter of time be­fore it gets lumped into the “Mickey Mouse” cat­e­gory of cour­ses that some news­pa­pers like to pour scorn on.

An­other TV show in­spired five Univer­sity of Manch­ester stu­dents to pur­sue a dif­fer­ent type of ca­reer – which has landed them with jail terms of up to 15 years each. The un­der­grad­u­ates sold more than £800,000 worth of drugs on the dark web to fund a lux­ury life­style, com­par­ing them­selves to the Break­ing Bad char­ac­ter Wal­ter White,

The Guardian re­ported on 21 March. The men used their ill-got­ten gains to party in the Ba­hamas, Ja­maica and Am­s­ter­dam be­fore they were caught by the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion. Ring­leader Basil As­saf, 26, got 15 years and three months be­hind bars, while his four con­spir­a­tors got terms of be­tween seven and 12 years. Sen­tenc­ing the five, Judge Michael Leem­ing said: “As in­tel­li­gent men, you will each ap­pre­ci­ate the mis­ery that is caused and con­trib­uted to by peo­ple like you.”

It may some­times feel like chang­ing gen­der stereo­types in sci­ence is an up­hill bat­tle but some pos­i­tive signs of progress have emerged in re­search that sug­gests chil­dren are be­com­ing more likely to draw women when asked to de­pict a sci­en­tist. The meta-anal­y­sis, pub­lished in the jour­nal Child De­vel­op­ment, looked at 78 sep­a­rate stud­ies dat­ing back to the 1960s in­volv­ing chil­dren from nurs­ery age up to the age of 18. Ac­cord­ing to the re­search, in stud­ies up to 1977 fewer than 1 per cent of chil­dren chose to draw a woman when asked to draw a sci­en­tist but, in stud­ies from 1985 to 2016, that be­came 28 per cent, re­ported In­side Higher Ed. Co-au­thor Alice Eagly, pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at North­west­ern Univer­sity, said that chil­dren still drew more male sci­en­tists “but that is ex­pected be­cause women re­main a mi­nor­ity in sev­eral sci­ence fields”.

Union lead­ers were left un­con­vinced by a UK univer­sity’s claim that ax­e­ing hun­dreds of aca­demic jobs would help it to drive up stan­dards of teach­ing and re­search. The Univer­sity of Liver­pool said that al­low­ing more than 220 aca­demics to leave un­der a vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy scheme would en­able it to “in­crease the pace of the im­prove­ments al­ready tak­ing place”. How­ever, Mar­tyn Moss, a re­gional of­fi­cial for the Univer­sity and Col­lege Union, said that “any sen­si­ble univer­sity” would con­sult prop­erly with staff and stu­dents be­fore mak­ing changes on this scale. “We are un­con­vinced that get­ting rid of more than 200 valu­able and ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ing and re­search staff is the best ap­proach to try and im­prove rank­ings for teach­ing and re­search,” he said.

At least the Home Of­fice has man­aged to see sense over the case of two Durham Univer­sity aca­demics who faced de­por­ta­tion from the UK for hav­ing spent too much time con­duct­ing field­work over­seas. Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, an an­thro­pol­ogy re­searcher, and his wife, Arely Cruz-San­ti­ago, a re­searcher in the univer­sity’s ge­og­ra­phy depart­ment, had been told that they had 14 days to leave the UK. The Mex­i­can-born cou­ple, who moved to the UK more than a decade ago, spent 270 days work­ing with vic­tims of gang vi­o­lence in Mex­ico, us­ing their ex­per­tise to build a DNA data­base to help lo­cate the miss­ing. Home Of­fice guide­lines state that non-EU mi­grants can­not spend more than 180 days out­side the UK dur­ing their visa pe­riod. But the depart­ment re­versed its po­si­tion af­ter more than 71,000 peo­ple signed a pe­ti­tion urg­ing civil ser­vants to re­con­sider, and the cou­ple have now been granted in­def­i­nite leave to re­main.

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