News in brief

April 22, 2010

Employment conditions

Cambridge to vote on job security

A ballot on proposed changes to disciplinary and redundancy procedures at the University of Cambridge was due to open on 22 April. Opponents of the plans for "Statute U" say that they will make it much easier to sack staff and make them redundant. At present, university officers can be sacked only for "conduct of an immoral, scandalous, or disgraceful nature incompatible with the duties of the office or employment". This will be replaced by "gross misconduct", which includes a list of disciplinary offences including "unreasonable refusal to carry out a reasonable instruction" and "any other act of serious misconduct". University administrators say the changes will reflect changes in employment law. The ballot results will be revealed next month.

Complementary medicine

RGU calls time on homeopathy

A Scottish university has become the latest to cancel its homeopathy provision. Robert Gordon University said it would stop offering the Introduction to Homeopathy module in its School of Nursing and Midwifery because of low take-up. The course has been running since January 2007. A university spokesman said: "It was cancelled as it was considered to be financially unviable." He added that the course had run with as few as three students, and that the decision to axe it followed an "annual review of provision". The course has been the target of a campaign by David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London and an outspoken critic of institutions offering courses in complementary and alternative medicine. Times Higher Education reported last week that the University of Buckingham had withdrawn accreditation from a postgraduate diploma in integrated medicine that combined conventional and alternative medical treatments. This course had also been targeted in Professor Colquhoun's campaign.

Mathematics

Back to the drawing board

Mathematicians have issued a public plea to be allowed to continue using blackboards in the technological age. The London Mathematical Society, the learned society for mathematics in the UK, says: "Software packages provide practical aids to learning mathematics, but to understand the process of doing mathematics, students need to see someone else working through and creating the results ... Lecture boards remain an important technology for teaching mathematics." The appeal is contained in the society's "teaching position statement", published last week. It also says specific modules should be available for more than one year of a maths degree, and that master's degrees in maths should not be obliged to "reach the frontiers of knowledge". Some areas of the subject are so complex they require at least five years of study, it says.

University Alliance

Glasgow Caledonian joins the fold

Glasgow Caledonian University has left Million+, which represents newer universities, to join the University Alliance. Pamela Gillies, vice-chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian, said the institution was joining the group representing "major business-focused universities" at a time when "our collective impact is crucial". A spokeswoman for Million+ said it was "entirely a decision for the university that they have now chosen to join a group with more of a mission focus". Glasgow Caledonian becomes the 23rd member of the alliance, and the first in Scotland.

ONLINE NOW

Last week, Times Higher Education reported on the new academic discipline of male studies, which explores the problem of misandry - the hatred of males. Discussing the topic online, Hero says: "I worked in a further education college where the tutors would bitch about boys all day. Were they fired or disciplined if the head of department heard them? No. She joined in."

Dave H says: "There is a lot of flippant anti-male rhetoric out there which can be quite nasty. However, let's not forget that most women love men, and most men love women."

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