28 March - 3 April 2013 - The week in higher education

April 4, 2013
  • A Cardiff-born expatriate lecturer has won fame in East Asia after reaching the semi-finals of China’s Got Talent for his rendition of revolutionary songs dressed in a Mao-style uniform. Iain Inglis told WalesOnline on 24 March that as there were so few outsiders in China, “when you have a tall, white foreigner from Wales who is singing songs about communism in Chinese - well, they seem to find it quite hilarious”. However, his singing career was brought to an abrupt halt by a call from the Bureau of Broadcasting the day before the final, which inexplicably said he would not be allowed to compete. “Perhaps they weren’t very keen on having a foreigner singing songs about communism,” Mr Inglis mused. The Chinese Communist Party has been accused of stifling academic expression before, but never in this way.
  • The discovery of Richard III’s remains under a car park in Leicester may have represented the university PR coup of the year, but there will be fears that the city of York may turn out to have the last laugh. According to a report in The Guardian on March, 15 living descendants of the English king are threatening a legal challenge over the location of his final resting place. The Plantagenet Alliance insists that York Minster is the most appropriate place for Richard III’s burial given his links to the area (he was also known as Richard of York). However, the University of Leicester is unlikely to give up its prize without a fight. “Reinterment on the nearest consecrated ground is in keeping with good archaeological practice. Richard has lain in the shadow of St Martin’s Cathedral, Leicester, for over 500 years,” a spokesman for the university said.
  • The University of Salford is investigating allegations of a dust-up between its deputy vice-chancellor and a student at a swimming pool, the Manchester Evening News reported on 28 March. Adrian Graves is said to have exchanged heated words with a mature student after a collision in the university’s five-lane pool in February, the paper said. It followed a previous poolside incident involving Dr Graves in November 2011, when the police were called but no further action was deemed necessary. Salford told the newspaper that it was “taking appropriate action” regarding the latest incident but would not comment any further. A member of staff who answered Dr Graves’ office phone said he was “unavailable for the foreseeable future”.
  • After last year’s high drama on the Thames, the 2013 Boat Race on 31 March did its best to revert to type this time - in other words, a lot of privileged young people watching some other privileged young people using sticks to push a boat up a river. Luckily, the triumphant Oxford cox did cause some controversy by turning the airwaves blue with his brand of motivational speaking. “Don’t fucking sit,” rang out one order from Colombian-American Oskar Zorrilla, causing many a family to spit out their Easter Sunday roast. The St Hugh’s postgraduate student then continued with more four-letter musings, leaving some viewers aghast at the BBC’s failure to turn off his mic. The BBC and Mr Zorrilla later apologised, although the cox pointed out to the Evening Standard on 2 April that if you put mics on footballers or other sportsmen “it might not make for Sunday afternoon viewing”. Maybe it was just a ruse to spice up what, in comparison with last year’s event, seemed to be an easy win for the Dark Blues.
  • Times Higher Education’s attempt to dupe readers on 1 April with the “real” reasons for Sir Alan Langlands’ departure from England’s funding council - including his performance of the Harlem Shake - may not have fooled anyone. But a story in The Daily Telegraph on the same day probably caused some confusion, because it was based on a genuine press release. The paper reported that Durham University was running a Harry Potter- themed module on its education studies course, while the University of Abertay Dundee was offering teaching in “ethical hacking”. But although this may have seemed like a joke to many, they were actually highlighted by the Which? University website as examples of unusual courses on offer at UK universities. An organisation using strange course titles for some easy publicity? Pull the other one.

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