News in brief

August 4, 2011

University of Abertay Dundee

Once and future departure of King

The University of Abertay Dundee has once again confirmed the retirement of its suspended principal Bernard King, and said that all legal claims by the two sides have been withdrawn. A statement, which the university says was issued jointly with Professor King, describes all outstanding issues as "resolved". Professor King was suspended in February by the university court "pending investigation of a number of issues". In early July, the university said Professor King had retired, prompting him to issue a denial and accuse Abertay of "unfair and unlawful" actions.

Arts and humanities

Spreading some ministerial love

The universities and science minister is on a mission to show arts and humanities academics "how much we love them". Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum event on 26 July, David Willetts said: "There (is) a view that I see in the Times Higher that there is a vendetta against the arts and humanities, and that is really not how we in the coalition see the world." He said showing love for the arts and humanities was one of his three priorities. The others are producing a paper on the future of research and innovation, and scrutinising the postgraduate market.

No-confidence campaign

Grace fails to find favour

A no-confidence vote in the universities and science minister by the University of Cambridge's governing "parliament" ended in a dead heat - meaning the motion did not pass. The ballot of members of Regent House saw 681 votes in favour of a motion calling on Cambridge to state it did not have confidence in David Willetts' policies, with the same number voting against. As a result, the "grace" was not carried. Almost 150 academics put forward the grace as part of a nationwide campaign. The universities of Leeds and Oxford have already passed such motions.

Exam howlers winner

Stirring, but incorrect, statements

The food science and technology student who advised a "genital mixing action" inadvertently provided the winner of this year's Times Higher Education exam howlers competition. Ann Wood of the department of biochemistry at King's College London submitted the winning entry in the contest, in which lecturers are invited to share their favourite errors and misunderstandings. "I think the student meant 'gentle'," Dr Wood writes, "but it was wrong anyway." Coming a close second was the student who simplified a subject by writing about it "in Lehman's terms", which baffled Iain Woodhouse, senior lecturer in the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh, until he read it aloud ("layman's terms" was intended).

For-profit institutions

Clegg's 'no' has a precedent

A letter has been sent on behalf of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg explaining why he has not backed a parliamentary motion raising concerns about the growth of for-profit higher education providers in the UK. Among the more than 100 signatories to the early-day motion, which warns of the problems involving for-profits in the US, are former Liberal Democrat leaders Sir Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy and party president Tim Farron. One of Mr Clegg's Sheffield Hallam constituents wrote to the deputy prime minister on the issue, but was told in a reply that according to parliamentary convention, party leaders do not sign such motions.


Online readers reacted to the news that elite universities are considering a move to local pay bargaining. Eduard Du Courseau said it put him in mind of his experiences "at a leading Sydney university in the 1990s when enterprise bargaining was introduced. Each university engaged in a fairly pointless but painful attempt to extract more sweat from academics in exchange for piddling pay rises and protracted negotiations brought along strikes, increased sickies and rising tensions between union and management."

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