THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

More than two-thirds of union mem­bers who took part in a bal­lot have sup­ported strike ac­tion over the pay of­fer to staff at UK uni­ver­si­ties, but on most cam­puses the turnout failed to hit the 50 per cent thresh­old re­quired for walk­outs. As Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion went to press, the Uni­ver­sity and Col­lege Union said that at only seven in­sti­tu­tions did mem­bers back strike ac­tion in a bal­lot with more than 50 per cent turnout, in­clud­ing the uni­ver­si­ties of Brighton, Hud­der­s­field, Not­ting­ham and Sh­effield. Staff are also set to walk out at He­riot-Watt and Leeds Arts uni­ver­si­ties, as well as the Cour­tauld In­sti­tute of Art. Staff at three providers in North­ern Ire­land, where the turnout thresh­old does not ap­ply, also backed strike ac­tion: Queen’s Uni­ver­sity Belfast, Ul­ster Uni­ver­sity and St Mary’s Uni­ver­sity Col­lege. The bal­lot was called over the of­fer from the Uni­ver­sity and Col­leges Em­ploy­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of a min­i­mum pay rise for 2018-19 of 2 per cent, ris­ing to 2.8 per cent for the low­est paid.

Prob­lems en­coun­tered by over­seas aca­demics try­ing to get visas for UK-based in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences are a dire warn­ing of how the coun­try could lose its “com­pet­i­tive edge” in sci­ence if Brexit is mis­han­dled, ac­cord­ing to the Well­come Trust. The Guardian re­ported that a ma­jor con­fer­ence on psy­chi­atric ge­net­ics held in Glas­gow was marred by ab­sences re­sult­ing from the fail­ure of im­por­tant con­trib­u­tors and at­ten­dees to gain visas. The dis­ap­point­ment in Glas­gow came on the heels of sim­i­lar prob­lems dog­ging a global health sym­po­sium held in Liver­pool ear­lier in the month, the news­pa­per said. “The cur­rent sys­tem is creak­ing and causes prob­lems for re­searchers [out­side Europe] who want to travel to con­fer­ences to share their ideas, but is also a fore­taste of what could come in fu­ture if we try to ex­pand the cur­rent sys­tem to cover cit­i­zens from coun­tries in the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area,” said Beth Thomp­son, Well­come’s head of UK and Euro­pean Union pol­icy.

News, page 9

The Ger­man bud­get su­per­mar­ket chain Lidl has shaken up UK food re­tail­ing in re­cent years by in­tro­duc­ing shop­pers to the de­lights of low­price lux­u­ries such as lob­ster and prosecco. Now it hopes to drive up in­ter­est in a taste that has fallen some­what out of favour: modern lan­guage study. Lidl is help­ing to fund stud­ies in Ger­man at the Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford by of­fer­ing to spon­sor a mas­ter’s de­gree stu­dent and com­pe­ti­tion prizes for un­der­grad­u­ates, The Daily Tele­graph re­ported. It was wel­comed at Ox­ford as some­thing that will raise the pro­file of Ger­man, which seems to have suf­fered most as in­ter­est in modern lan­guages has waned. “The per­cep­tion of Ger­man is that it is harder, that it is less use­ful and it is some­thing for the elite. In many schools, it’s only an op­tion for the top set,” said Vicky Gough, the Bri­tish Coun­cil’s schools ad­viser. Lidl may find it rather harder to change that per­cep­tion with a lit­tle Oxbridge gift than to build a new su­per­mar­ket on a brown­field site out­side a small town.

Widen­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion staff in uni­ver­si­ties face a new chal­lenge: ge­net­ics. A King’s Col­lege Lon­don study re­ported by The Times found that 57 per cent of the dis­tri­bu­tion of of­fers made by higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions to prospec­tive stu­dents could be ex­plained by genes. The re­search also showed that genes ex­plained half the dif­fer­ence in whether or not a per­son went to uni­ver­sity at all, as well as the grades they got when they ar­rived. How­ever, ad­mis­sions staff should not give up all hope, ac­cord­ing to Zi­ada Ay­orech, one of the King’s re­searchers, who said that the in­ter­play be­tween genes and so­ci­ety was com­plex. “Peo­ple hear ‘ge­net­i­cally in­flu­enced’ and think ‘ge­net­i­cally de­ter­mined’. But it’s not like that,” she said.

An edi­tion of a stu­dent news­pa­per at the Uni­ver­sity of York had to be re­called af­ter it caused up­roar by us­ing its back page to ask stu­dents to send in naked pic­tures of them­selves. The “Send Nudes” call in York Vi­sion was in­tended to “com­bat poor-qual­ity, low-ef­fort naked pic­tures”, with the news­pa­per pledg­ing to make “com­ments on what they like and tips on how to up your game”, ac­cord­ing to the on­line ver­sion of the re­quest, which has since been re­moved, The Times re­ported. Nouse, a ri­val stu­dent news­pa­per, later pub­lished an apol­ogy from York Vi­sion, which said that the page had been in­tended “to ad­ver­tise a fu­ture light­hearted piece”. The last laugh, how­ever, went to some­one com­ment­ing un­der the Times re­port who sug­gested that the stu­dent hacks should be told that “no nudes is good nudes”.

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