THE WEEK IN HIGHER ED­U­CA­TION

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

Swansea Univer­sity has sus­pended its vice-chan­cel­lor, Richard Davies, while an on­go­ing in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is car­ried out. In an email to Swansea staff, reg­is­trar and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer An­drew Rhodes said that the dean of the School of Man­age­ment, Marc Cle­ment, and two other mem­bers of staff at the school had also been sus­pended. Mr Rhodes writes that the mat­ters un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion “do not con­cern the aca­demic per­for­mance of the univer­sity or its fi­nan­cial well­be­ing”. A Swansea spokes­woman said: “We can con­firm that the vice-chan­cel­lor, Richard B. Davies, and Pro­fes­sor Marc Cle­ment have been sus­pended, pend­ing the out­come of an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. We are not mak­ing any fur­ther com­ment at this stage.”

Matthew Hedges, the Bri­tish PhD stu­dent who was sen­tenced to life in prison for spy­ing in the United Arab Emi­rates, has been par­doned with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. Mr Hedges, a doc­toral re­search stu­dent spe­cial­is­ing in Mid­dle East­ern polit- ics at Durham Univer­sity, was de­tained at Dubai air­port in May and held in soli­tary con­fine­ment for five months be­fore be­ing found guilty on 21 Novem­ber of “spy­ing for or on be­half of” the UK gov­ern­ment. Stu­art Cor­bridge, Durham’s vice-chan­cel­lor, said that he was “ab­so­lutely de­lighted to learn the news”. “It is para­mount that he is now al­lowed to re­turn home to…his fam­ily as quickly and safely as pos­si­ble. We will…be thrilled to wel­come him back to the Durham Univer­sity com­mu­nity,” Pro­fes­sor Cor­bridge said.

Let­ters, page 29

NOW the snowflake po­lice are WHINGEING about the use of CAP­I­TAL LET­TERS, the tabloids screamed at us in an­other story tak­ing a stab at the re­port­edly del­i­cate de­meanour of mod­ern­day stu­dents. A memo shared with the Daily Ex­press writ­ten by course lead­ers at Leeds Trin­ity Univer­sity’s jour­nal­ism de­part­ment ad­vised staff to “gen­er­ally, avoid us­ing cap­i­tal let­ters for em­pha­sis” when set­ting as­sign­ments be­cause it could “gener- ate anx­i­ety and even dis­cour­age stu­dents from at­tempt­ing the as­sess­ment at all”. “I MEAN IT’S FAIR ENOUGH ISN’T IT?” one Twit­ter user re­sponded, “EVEN PER­FECTLY REA­SON­ABLE COM­MENTS LOOK WEIRDLY AG­GRES­SIVE…AND ARE KIND OF DIS­TRACT­ING IF THEY’RE WRIT­TEN IN ALL CAPS.” Is the Ex­press wor­ried that the next gen­er­a­tion of jour­nal­ists will rebel against its weirdly ag­gres­sive caps-style em­pha­sis within head­lines?

Be­fore they can con­sider where the might ply their trade, of course, the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents will first have to find a way to pass their ex­ams. A re­port in The Sun claims that stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Sh­effield have been given per­mis­sion to skip exam ques­tions if they find them dis­tress­ing, with no need to ex­plain their “back­story”. It fol­lows an ear­lier move by New­cas­tle Univer­sity ad­vis­ing staff to al­low stu­dents upset by exam ma­te­ri­als to re­sit or be ex­empt from as­sess­ments. Crit­ics say the idea could stir up even more anx­i­ety, how­ever, by lead­ing stu­dents to an­tic­i­pate that they will be trau­ma­tised by ma­te­rial. Oth­ers make the rea­son­able ar­gu­ment that course lead­ers should prob­a­bly avoid in­clud­ing “dis­turb­ing” ma­te­rial on ex­ams in the first place. For all the mock­ery, it’s clear that there’s a de­bate to be had if uni­ver­si­ties don’t want to put stu­dents off learn­ing al­to­gether.

The Uni­ver­si­ties Su­per­an­nu­a­tion Scheme is to un­der­take a sec­ond val­u­a­tion af­ter in­sti­tu­tions in­di­cated that they were will­ing to pay more to­wards sup­port­ing UK higher ed­u­ca­tion’s largest pen­sion fund. In an email to USS mem­bers on 22 Novem­ber, the pen­sion scheme an­nounced that it would con­duct an ad­di­tional val­u­a­tion of its fund­ing po­si­tion as of 31 March this year. The pre­vi­ous val­u­a­tion led to a rec­om­men­da­tion by Uni­ver­si­ties UK that the USS’ de­fined-ben­e­fits scheme – un­der which mem­bers are guar­an­teed a fixed sum in re­tire­ment – should be scrapped, trig­ger­ing months of staff walk­outs at UK uni­ver­si­ties. How­ever, an in­de­pen­dent re­view panel set up jointly by Uni­ver­si­ties UK and the Univer­sity and Col­lege Union re­ported in Sep­tem­ber that the deficit would be £3.5 bil­lion lower if the val­u­a­tion were re­run in March 2018 – largely be­cause in­vest­ment re­turns had been bet­ter than ex­pected to the tune of £2 bil­lion. The USS mis­sive con­firmed that the fund can­not avoid an in­crease in con­tri­bu­tions, an­nounced in July, which will take ef­fect in April 2019. Staff con­tri­bu­tions will rise to 8.8 per cent, up from 8 per cent, while em­ployer con­tri­bu­tions will rise from 18 per cent to 19.5 per cent.

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