The week in higher education – 16 March 2023

The good, the bad and the offbeat: the academy through the lens of the world’s media

三月 16, 2023

Oxford crime dramas usually centre on clever coppers and deadly dons but a different villainy is afoot at Magdalen College: the theft of cutlery and crockery from its dining rooms. According to The Times, the alma mater of Boris Johnson, William Hague and Jeremy Hunt has written to students to warn of the serious consequences of continuing to pilfer college-crested silverware, as well as coffee cups and plates. “The fad for taking souvenirs from hall and other dining rooms has worsened, recent losses of crockery and cutlery from the catering department is not acceptable or sustainable,” explained an email to students, stating an amnesty on the return of items would run until 10 March. Similar scenes at Balliol College have recently caused it to suspend the use of branded plates and place mats, although some readers wondered whether the loss of some eating utensils from a glorified student canteen really merited its place on The Times’ pages. A storm in a teacup, perhaps?

With the Office for Students expanding its regulatory remit to staff-student relations and free speech infringements, its ballooning running costs (already a hefty £30 million a year) are facing growing scrutiny. So new plans to bill institutions for the watchdog’s investigation costs are unlikely to go down well with institutions – some of which are currently paying more than £500,000 annually for the pleasure of its supposedly light-touch oversight. Those wondering exactly how much the OfS will be charging for its probes will, however, struggle to learn much from the 20 or so pages of consultation documents published on 9 March; no actual figures, or even outline numbers, are mentioned. Those hoping for a waiver are likely to be disappointed too: institutions will need to cough up in most scenarios, even if cleared of any wrongdoing.

A university library without books isn’t the oxymoron that you might imagine, with many American learning hubs ditching old-fashioned paper tomes at the turn of the millennium. But plans by Vermont State University to drop books from all five of its campus libraries seem to have been a step too far. Announcing a U-turn, the university explained it “will maintain volumes that have been accessed or checked out between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2022 and have been deemed academically valuable by the academic department chairs and the provost.” That said, only about 10 per cent of the estimated 300,000 titles in its current collections will be saved under the so-called all-digital model, reported local news site VT Digger. Some “popular, casual, reading books” and children’s books will also be kept in the mostly book-free libraries – a rather depressing thought for those with pleasant memories of hours spent studying among the knowledge-filled university stacks.

Taking legal action against the Chinese government might seem an unwinnable fight, but two students at Tsinghua University have decided to try after being penalised for distributing rainbow flags on campus. The pair faced disciplinary action after allegedly leaving the flags on the counter of a campus supermarket and have been seeking to have the decision overturned. The move comes amid an increasingly repressive environment at Chinese universities for gay scholars and students. Cui Le, a researcher in queer issues in Chinese education, said the flag has “become a target of surveillance and censorship by the university authorities”. The students’ David v Goliath legal battle against China’s Ministry of Education shows their “agency and resilience...even though they are unlikely to win”, he said.

The state of Idaho’s effective ban of abortion after the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade last year has prevented artists showing their work in a college’s exhibition. Several artworks – including a series of videos of women talking about their experiences with abortion and pregnancy – were recently removed from an upcoming show that focused on health issues at Lewis-Clark State College’s Center for Arts and History. Artists were told that their work could not be included in the “Unconditional Care” show because lawyers thought it broke a recent law making it illegal to use public funds to promote abortion, The Guardian reported. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Coalition Against Censorship expressed “alarm” at the decision. But where are the free speech crusaders when you need them?



  • 注册是免费的,而且十分便捷
  • 注册成功后,您每月可免费阅读3篇文章
  • 订阅我们的邮件
Please 登录 or 注册 to read this article.