News in brief - 22 May 2014

May 22, 2014

Exam howlers
Time to share student blunders

With the exam season well and truly under way – and luckily no longer affected by the threat of a marking boycott – 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. Last year’s winner was Adam Hart, professor of science communication at the University of Gloucestershire, who revealed that in an exam answer on the evolution of sex, one student wrote: “Sex has puzzled biologists ever since it was discovered by Darwin and Mendel.” It narrowly beat the glorious mixed metaphor of a “hotly contested potato” spotted by Steve Hawley, head of media at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Manchester School of Art. Please send examples of unfortunate typos, spoonerisms and misunderstandings to by  June 2014. A magnum of champagne will be awarded for the winning entry.

NUS motion
Student Rights ‘insidious group’

The National Union of Students has condemned a group that monitors extremist speakers on campus as an “insidious” organisation whose work has led to “witch-hunts” against Muslims. It comes after NUS national executive council passed a motion on 13 May condemning Student Rights, which published a report in May 2013 that suggested that a quarter of the university Islamic society events it monitored had enforced gender segregation. In a statement, Aaron Kiely, the NUS black students’ officer, said: “The unanimous condemnation of Student Rights by the NUS national executive council is a big step forward in the fight against this insidious organisation that has led witch-hunts of the Muslim community.” But on its website, Student Rights said that the condemnation showed that the NUS was “failing utterly to challenge extremism and hate-speakers”.

International students
£11,000 fees ‘no deterrent’

Universities should raise their tuition fees for foreign students to £11,000 a year because this appears to have little impact on demand, a survey has suggested. The research by the recruitment firm Hobsons asked students looking to study in the UK or Australia to make trade-offs between factors in their decision-making such as university ranking, tuition fees and employment prospects. Fees emerged as the most important factor for prospective students, although an increase in fees up to £11,000 made little difference to their preferences, according to Beyond the Data: Influencing International Student Decision Making, released on 14 May.

University ranking system
User-driven approach

A European Union-sponsored university ranking system has gone live. U-Multirank, set up with €2 million (£1.6 million) of EU funding, assesses the performance of more than 850 global institutions on five indicators – research, teaching, international orientation, success in knowledge transfer via partnerships with business and start-ups, and regional involvement. It does not produce a league table, but users can create a personalised ranking based on their priorities. The ranking was proposed in 2008 by France, which then held the presidency of the EU and led the European Commission to call for proposals for a European university ranking system.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Our news story on a study proposing that at least 30 per cent of candidates on shortlists for UK university leadership roles drawn up by recruitment companies should be women provoked a reaction among our 111,000 Twitter followers. @RandalWhittaker tweeted that “intervention is required to ensure that recruitment agencies produce truly diverse long and short lists”, while @dawnbazely added that “all the recent research on subtle barriers to female advancement means we CAN fix [the] #LeakyPipeline”. However, @sueshepherdHE asked “are quotas really the way to get female vice chancellors?” and @AtheneDonald said “why shd quotas on short lists solve tokenism?” @jennyhmccomb said it was important to “balance tokenism fear [with the] importance of having senior female decision makers at universities”.

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