News in brief – 30 April 2015

April 30, 2015

Student voters
Greens overtake Lib Dems

The Green Party has seen a surge in support among university students at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, according to a poll of 13,000 undergraduates. More than half the students surveyed said that they would not vote for the Lib Dems in the upcoming general election because the party increased tuition fees while in power. Labour and the Conservatives have identical levels of support on campus, says the study by High Fliers Research. The results come from face-to-face interviews with 13,039 final-year undergraduates at 30 universities conducted just before Easter, and are published in the report Student Politics 2015. The report finds that 31 per cent of final-year students intend to vote for Labour and 31 per cent for the Conservatives. A quarter said that they will vote for the Green Party, 6 per cent for the Lib Dems and 3 per cent for the Scottish National Party. One per cent of students intend to vote for Ukip.

Fossil fuel divestment
Soas leads the way in London

Soas, University of London, is to divest from fossil fuels within the next three years after the institution’s governing body approved the decision. Oil and gas equities at the college stand at £1.5 million. To implement the divestment plan, an “ethical investment criterion” will be added to the university’s investment policy and gift acceptance guidelines. Paul Webley, director of Soas, said that the institution was “proud to become the first university in London to divest, and we hope more universities will follow suit”. In October 2014, the University of Glasgow became the first university in Europe to commit to divesting from the fossil fuel industry.

£6K fee choices
Film, not finance

About 40 per cent of university applicants may choose a different course if tuition fees are reduced to £6,000 a year, a study suggests. As part of the Does Cost Matter? report, researchers from the National Education Opportunities Network asked nearly 1,500 Year 13 students who had applied to university how finance had affected their decisions. Just under 40 per cent said that the introduction of £6,000 fees – Labour’s key higher education pledge for the election – would have encouraged them to choose a course they would have liked to do more than the one they had chosen. About half the teenagers surveyed said that the lower fee would have seen them widen the choice of institution that they would consider attending. About 40 per cent of respondents also said that the cost of studying had made them more likely to go to a university near to where they live, with students from poorer families more likely to be influenced by location.

Drag studies
Gale Force sweeps in

A university has launched what it claims is the UK’s first module in “drag studies”. The module, titled Drag Kings and Drag Queens of Performance, has now been validated and will be offered to third-year undergraduates at Edge Hill University from January 2016. It was devised by Mark Edward, senior lecturer in performance, who created his own film and show, Council House Movie Star, in the persona of ageing drag queen Gale Force and recently published a research paper titled “Stop prancing about: boys, dance and the reflective glance”. “Despite the fact that performers have been ‘dragging up’ since Shakespearean times,” he said, “this module is completely unique in exploring the crossing of boundaries in terms of gender and performance.”

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

A 37 per cent decline in the number of undergraduates studying for a degree on a part-time basis in the UK over the past five years was labelled a tragedy by Peter Horrocks, the Open University’s new vice-chancellor, in last week’s magazine. Many of our Twitter followers agreed. “I’m fighting for part-time education. Part-time education needs to be front and centre of the HE agenda,” said @SelenaKillick, echoing Mr Horrocks’ call. @garyeason said that part-time students had been “neglected for years”, and @psychotimmy said that it was “disappointing only 1/5 [general election] manifestos” note the importance of part-time study.

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