News in brief – 28 May 2015

May 28, 2015
'Oooops!' button on Apple keyboard

THE ‘exam howlers’ competition

Bubbles for bloopers

Times Higher Education is launching this year’s call for entries to its “exam howlers” competition, in which lecturers are invited to share their favourite mistakes from students’ scripts. Last year’s winner was John Milliken, lecturer in education at Ulster University, for his entry about a student’s claim that “the [hole in the] ozone layer was caused by arseholes”. Another blooper he submitted – that “in future all cars [will] be fitted with Catholic converters” – also proved popular with THE’s newsroom, as did the view that Google is “one of the two main suppositories of data in the world”, which was submitted by Verity Black, information technology programme director at the University of Sheffield.

Send examples of unfortunate typos, spoonerisms and misunderstandings to by 26 June 2015. A magnum of champagne will be awarded for the winning entry.

Higher education briefs

Who’s in and who’s out?

Liam Byrne is to remain as Labour’s shadow universities, science and skills minister. Mr Byrne, who was appointed to the brief in October 2013, featured in the election campaign, with David Cameron repeatedly brandishing a copy of his infamous 2010 “there is no money” note, which he wrote upon leaving his government post in the Treasury. Chuka Umunna, who stepped down from the Labour leadership race, remains as shadow business secretary. Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party has confirmed that newly elected MP Michelle Thomson will be its spokeswoman for business, innovation and skills. Ms Thomson was elected to represent Edinburgh West in the general election after a career in financial services and, in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum, serving as managing director of Business for Scotland for two years.

Pay talks

Unison welcomes latest offer

The trade union that represents university support staff has broadly welcomed the latest national pay offer. Unison is currently consulting its higher education members about the final 1 per cent pay offer announced by employers on 15 May, which also includes additional rises of up to 2.65 per cent for the lowest-paid staff to bring them in line with the living wage. Unison’s higher education service group executive said that the offer is “the best that can be achieved by negotiation and that any improvement will only be secured by sustained strike action”. The University and College Union was due to decide at its annual congress in Glasgow on 23-25 May whether it will put the offer to its membership.

Student loan book

New body ‘to speed up sale’

A decision by George Osborne to bring together the two bodies that manage taxpayer stakes in businesses aims to accelerate the sale of assets, including the student loan book. The formation of UK Government Investments – which brings together the Shareholder Executive and UK Financial Investments – is part of a plan to deliver the biggest ever sale of publicly owned corporate and financial assets in 2015-16. That includes the sale of the pre-2012 income-contingent student loan book, as well as public shareholdings such as that in Royal Bank of Scotland. The chancellor said: “If we want a more productive economy, let’s get the government out of the business of owning great chunks of our banking system – and indeed other assets that should be in the private sector.” Critics have claimed that although the sale of student loans may produce a short-term cash benefit, it will amount to a loss in the long-term as a result of lost future repayments and subsidies required to mitigate risks for private buyers.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Our feature asking if the traditional doctoral thesis was becoming a thing of the past had our Twitter followers debating. “Yes, yes, yes,” said @OmanReagan, “doctoral candidates should write x number of articles instead.” Cultural geographer @jfourniere said that in his discipline, “it is normal to publish whilst writing up your thesis – have your cake and eat it!” @Rob_Briner had a short and to the point answer to the question “is the thesis obsolete?”. “I know mine is,” he tweeted.

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