THE WEEK IN HIGHER ED­U­CA­TION

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

Pek­ing Univer­sity was re­cently de­scribed by China’s pres­i­dent, Xi Jin­ping, as the “first place to study and spread Marx­ism in China”. But its cur­rent crop of Marx­ist stu­dents are ap­par­ently less pop­u­lar with au­thor­i­ties be­cause of their sup­port for trade unions. This au­tumn, the univer­sity’s Marx­ist so­ci­ety has been un­able to rereg­is­ter for the new year be­cause it lacks teach­ers’ back­ing, the Fi­nan­cial Times re­ported on 24 Septem­ber. That came in the wake of the ar­rest of 40 stu­dents in Shen­zhen in July – among them Pek­ing Marx­ist so­ci­ety mem­ber Zhan Zhen­zhen – af­ter worker protests that month, the FT said. No ex­pla­na­tion has been given for the ab­sence of sup­port from within Pek­ing for its Marx­ist so­ci­ety, stu­dents said. How­ever, uni­ver­si­ties in the self-iden­ti­fied so­cial­ist state are “now un­der pres­sure to em­brace ‘Xi Jin­ping thought’”, the FT claimed, with the ideals of so­cial strug­gle es­poused by the 19th-cen­tury Ger­man po­lit­i­cal the­o­rist ap­par­ently be­com­ing less es­sen­tial to the cause, it seems.

Stu­dents at Otago Univer­sity are in uproar af­ter it emerged that the “bur­glar” who pinched their beloved cannabis bongs was a univer­sity proctor, the New Zealand Her­ald re­ported on 24 Septem­ber. Stu­dents were due to protest the “ou­tra­geous be­hav­iour” of Dave Scott, who en­tered stu­dent flats with­out per­mis­sion to con­fis­cate a num­ber of water pipes and bongs worth about NZ$400 (£203). “Be­cause they weren’t home, the flat­mates didn’t know what had hap­pened to the pipes and as­sumed they had been robbed,” the pa­per re­ported, via stu­dent mag­a­zine Critic Te Arohi. Yet the univer­sity was unapolo­getic about its “bong bur­glar”. While ad­mit­ting that the ac­tion was “un­usual and un­likely to be re­peated”, a spokesman said that Otago stood by the “low-level in­ter­ven­tion” and un­der­lined Mr Scott’s claim that he was “fo­cused on help­ing stu­dents gain de­grees and not crim­i­nal con­vic­tions”.

A Univer­sity of Sh­effield re­search sci­en­tist is be­ing hotly tipped to win tele­vi­sion’s Great Bri­tish Bake Off. Rahul Mandal, a re­search as­so­ciate at the univer­sity’s Nu­clear Ad­vanced Man­u­fac­tur­ing Re­search Cen­tre, was de­scribed by Smooth Ra­dio’s web­site on 23 Septem­ber as the “break­out star” of this year’s show, hav­ing “won fans over with his con­stant apolo­gies and quirky at­ti­tude”. “He’s pretty darn good at bak­ing too,” it added. The 30-year-old be­gan bak­ing only seven years ago, when he moved to the UK from Kolkata to take a PhD at Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity. Yet even as his skill grew, he kept his culi­nary ac­tiv­i­ties un­der wraps from his doc­toral peers. Not un­til a Sh­effield col­league heard about his bak­ing prow­ess was he con­vinced to ap­ply. With Dr Mandal billed by The Guardian as the “new Nadiya” – af­ter the “York­shire Asian bak­ing ge­nius” who won in 2015 – does a new ca­reer as a baker beckon for the nu­clear physi­cist?

Not ev­ery­one can as­pire to the culi­nary heights reached by Dr Mandal. Ap­par­ently, the kitchen skills of to­day’s stu­dents are so poor that a Bri­tish su­per­mar­ket chain has spied a mar­ket for ready-made scram­bled eggs. Ac­cord­ing to the i news­pa­per, the £1.50 mi­crowav­able pouch, which is made with free-range eggs and “a dash of milk and sea­son­ing”, cooks in just 90 sec­onds, the Ice­land chain says, which would ap­peal to late-ris­ing stu­dents who need a break­fast be­fore their 2pm lec­ture. It’s less clear if stu­dents are likely to take the ad­vice of Ice­land’s head chef “to serve on seeded bread with smoked salmon”. How­ever, even though ready­made scram­bled eggs seem a bit un­nec­es­sary, surely it’s a step up from Pot Noo­dles, the stu­dent sta­ple of 20 years ago? Although the 2019 Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion World Univer­sity Rank­ings takes in more than 1,250 uni­ver­si­ties, the num­ber is still some­what short of the es­ti­mated 20,000 higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions there are thought to be across the world. But does be­ing placed in the rank­ings al­low an in­sti­tu­tion to claim that it is in the top 5 per cent glob­ally? Prob­a­bly not, ac­cord­ing to the UK con­sumer group Which?. The group rapped some uni­ver­si­ties on the knuck­les last week for mak­ing sim­i­lar ex­trap­o­la­tions. Which? said that such claims were “po­ten­tially mis­lead­ing” be­cause they as­sumed that a ranked in­sti­tu­tion was bet­ter than all those that were not on the list (some of which are ex­cluded not on the grounds of qual­ity but rather el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria such as not teach­ing un­der­grad­u­ates). How­ever, the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, top again this year, is prob­a­bly safe in say­ing that it’s a world-beater.

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