The week in higher education – 17 May 2018

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

May 17, 2018
week in he - 17 may

A dog used to help students de-stress before exams has gone on strike after apparently being left exhausted by the constant demand for his services, the Daily Mail reported on 14 May. Twiglet, a Jack Russell, was brought in to help students at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, but has now refused to accompany undergraduates on walks to help relieve their revision anxiety. In an email to students seen by the Cambridge Student, the college said that Twiglet had “refused to move” and had been given leave from his pastoral duties to avoid “any unnecessary distress”. Twiglet’s excessive workload – a reported eight hours of walkies on some busy days – is suggested as a reason for his departure, something that will strike a chord with university staff toiling throughout exam season.

University access guru Sir Peter Lampl had an unexpected message when he appeared on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on 13 May: “Far too many kids are going to university.” The founder of the Sutton Trust, who has spent millions of pounds on university outreach projects over the past 20 years, told host Kirsty Young that he is now backing degree apprenticeships because trainees earn more over their lifetime and will not be left owing thousands in tuition fees, the Daily Express reported. “The problem is that kids are coming out with over £50,000 worth of debt. Three years out, 20-25 per cent are in non-graduate employment,” he explained. Sir Peter, who made his money in private equity, chose the Beatles’ She Loves You as one of his castaway tracks, but it seems that his love affair with traditional university access is well and truly over.

A university professor who was photographed holding a student’s baby while lecturing has said that he is surprised that the image has gone viral. Bruce Johnson, who teaches physics at Arkansas State University, told CNN on 10 May that it was not uncommon for students to bring their children to class when childcare arrangements broke down. “I hope that no parent ever feels like a classroom is an unfriendly place for their kids,” said Professor Johnson, who explained that he “couldn’t resist” picking up the baby when she reached towards him and the mother consented. “These are some of the most amazing experiences,” added Professor Johnson, who compared the job of lecturers to student parents. “What we do is just a small fraction compared to all their hard work,” he said.

The University of Zambia has apologised for telling female students not to visit its library “half-naked” because it would distract men, BBC News reported on 8 May. It follows criticism of a notice put up in the library at the campus in the capital, Lusaka, which stated that female students should “dress modestly” because their outfits were “disturbing the male students”. “Modest is the way to go!” concluded the poster, which found favour among some more conservative parts of the university, with one male student asking: “How can you concentrate on studying when someone walks [by] in a miniskirt or a tight dress?” However, the university stated that it apologised “unreservedly” for the post, explaining that it would not “tolerate old discredited misogynist views” and making clear that it did not have a dress code.

The Sun’s annual “Cambridge students go wild before their exams” story wasn’t quite up to scratch this year. Unable to find any pictures of mud-wrestling freshers or bleary-eyed bluestockings, the paper instead reported on 9 May what appears to have been a mild altercation between the Trinity Hall Crescents drinking society and a local resident at the Wetherspoons pub on Regent Street. Spotting the man filming their drinking antics on his phone, one student moaned, “It’s just not really on” – before the drinker replied: “You’re in a Wetherspoons!” Luckily, The Sun had a more eye-catching picture to illustrate the encounter – one taken last year of a undergraduate stripped to the waist drinking beer through a large fish – to show that student hedonism is alive and well.

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