The 25 most popular Times Higher Education articles of 2017

Chris Parr reveals the 25 Times Higher Education stories that received the most views during the last 12 months

December 19, 2017
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It has been a busy year for higher education, as our annual round-up of the top stories of 2017 reveals.

The past 12 months have seen universities front and centre of national and international news, with the scandal over vice-chancellor pay, the publication of the first teaching excellence framework results, and how the pressures of working in academia can affect scholars' mental health just three of the issues making headlines. 

The list below shows the 25 most popular articles on the Times Higher Education website this year. To be eligible, articles needed to have been published in 2017.

Articles about our World University Rankings are not included in this round-up. You can find our top 15 most popular rankings stories in a separate article

Without further ado, let the countdown begin...

25. How to be happy: academics advise on what brings joy at work

An optimistic start to proceedings as seven scholars relate what work in their disciplines reveals about the search for HE happiness.

24. National Student Survey 2017: campuses omitted after NUS boycott 

A high-profile boycott of the 2017 National Student Survey by the National Union of Students meant that several major higher education institutions, including the universities of Cambridge, Manchester, Oxford and Sheffield, failed to feature in this year’s table. The boycott was part of the union's protests over the introduction of the teaching excellence framework in England (more on that later in this list).

23. Which countries and universities are leading on AI research?


China has been producing almost twice as many papers on artificial intelligence as the next highest-placed country in terms of publication volume for the field, our data analysis showed.

22. Teesside University tells entire professoriate to reapply for their jobs

In July, Teesside University told all of its research professors to reapply for their jobs, or face redundancy. The episode reportedly led to the departure of several leading research staff.

21. Home truths about the Home Office

What should have been a straightforward application for leave to remain in the UK turned into a Kafkaesque nightmare for University of St Andrews’ lecturer Emily Michelson, whose research trip to Italy proved too much for visa administrators to handle.

20. The Higher Education pay survey 2017

This year we split our long-running annual analysis of university pay levels into two articles, with vice-chancellors receiving their own article (keep scrolling if that's what you are looking for). The 2017 HE Pay survey, published in May, showed that academic pay is still falling in real terms and that equality is still an issue with regard to gender and ethnicity.

19. Universities urged to tackle PhD mental health crisis


In April, figures showed that more than half of PhD students experience symptoms of psychological distress and one in three is at risk of having or developing a psychiatric disorder. Universities have been urged to do more to tackle a mental health crisis among postgraduates.

18. Using laptops in class harms academic performance, study warns 


Using a laptop in class can significantly damage students’ academic performance, we reported in April this year. Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes.

17. Dutch university says student cannot defend PhD dressed as pirate


This article makes our most-read list despite only being published in late November. The headline says it all, really. 

16. THE Teaching Survey 2017: results and analysis


Teaching is a major source of satisfaction for university lecturers despite growing frustration with heavy administrative loads and badly prepared students who moan about their marks. These were just some of the conclusions of our in-depth analysis of the state of teaching in higher education, published in February.

15. The middle-class academic elite is totally out of touch

Lisa Mckenzie has watched the academic world flail around at Brexit, Donald Trump and the Grenfell Tower fire, and she is not impressed.

14. Why the audit culture made me quit


When Liz Morrish opened up to students about the pressures academics are under, disciplinary proceedings culminated in her resignation. She reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside.

13. Which universities could challenge the higher education elite?

THE analysis reveals the 53 institutions that could surpass Oxbridge and the Ivy League

12. Poisonous science: dark side of the lab


 The bullying and subsequent suicide of a talented Ivy League scientist exposes ugly truths about the cruelty and dysfunction at the heart of academic science

11. I quit! Why I am leaving UK academia


How working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards finally forced Michael Edwards out.

10. Of monsters and mentors: PhD disasters, and how to avoid them


Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. In this June article, three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

9. THE Alma Mater Index 2017: who educates the global business elite?


Our global survey gives a picture of which institutions are best at producing senior business leaders worldwide.

8. I’m glad I eschewed academia – there are other PhD options


Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, often with better rewards than academia.

7. The THE Vice-Chancellor Pay Survey

In June, ahead of a summer of outcry over vice-chancellor pay levels, our annual survey revealed the state of play across the UK higher education sector. It continues to serve as the go-to resource for information on vice-chancellor remuneration. 

6. Young academics’ research ‘elegant but not interesting’


Young researchers at Western universities are increasingly writing “safe” and “conservative” papers, according to a scholar who has described the “intense boredom” he feels when reading the titles of journal articles.

5. Publishers seek removal of millions of papers from ResearchGate


In October, leading publishers stepped up their fight against ResearchGate by ordering the academic social network to take down papers that they say infringe copyright.

4. Universities need to plan for a dark future if academics prefer their own Plan B


Conditions that undermine the notion of scholarly vocation – relentless work, ubiquitous bureaucracy – can cause academics acute distress and spur them to quit, wrote Ruth Barcan in June. 

3. Academics ‘face higher mental health risk’ than other professions

Lack of job security, limited support from management and weight of work-related demands on time among risk factors putting academics' mental health at risk, we reported in August.

2. Why Germany educates international students for free

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, "soft power" concerns and local politics help explain Germany's ostensibly generous tuition fee policy.

1. The teaching excellence framework (TEF) results

During the year, our coverage of the TEF brought more than 270,000 different people to the THE websites. A number of TEF-themed articles would have made our top 25 on their own, but we have grouped them together for this list. The two most-read articles were the overall results, and our more detailed TEF metrics table

Chris Parr is digital and communities editor at Times Higher Education

Read next: top 15 World University Rankings stories of 2017

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Reader's comments (1)

In reference to article #12 "poisonous science", I am disgusted by universisties/labs lack of any accountability. Me neice, Anna Owensby's, similar situation at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.