News in Brief

September 1, 2011

PhD review

More bad news for Ahluwalia

Imperial College London has announced that it is reviewing the award of a PhD to a former student after it emerged that a paper he wrote while he was there is to be retracted. Jatinder Ahluwalia is first author on the 2003 Journal of Neurochemistry paper, "Activation of capsaicin-sensitive primary sensory neurons induces anandamide production and release". The Retraction Watch website reported that the journal has agreed to a request by Dr Ahluwalia's fellow authors to retract the paper after his former supervisor was unable to replicate his findings. Last year, a Nature paper written while Dr Ahluwalia was a postdoctoral researcher at University College London was retracted by his former boss, Anthony Segal, after a UCL committee found him guilty of research misconduct. It subsequently emerged that Dr Ahluwalia was dismissed from the University of Cambridge's PhD programme in 1997 after his supervisor suspected him of faking results. In July, he left the University of East London, where he had been a senior lecturer, after an internal investigation. Imperial will convene a panel to review the award of his PhD in accordance with its policy for investigating allegations of research misconduct.

Student accommodation

Connection, connection

Students rate good internet access above location and value for money when it comes to university accommodation, a survey suggests. The National Student Housing Survey, conducted by market research firm Red Brick Research, drew more than 15,000 responses from students across the UK. The respondents reportedly rate internet access as their top priority, with 90 per cent saying it is a "very important" factor when choosing accommodation. The second highest rated criterion is value for money (which 85 per cent say is very important), followed by location (75 per cent).

Tuition fees

£9,000? You're having a laugh

Less than a third of British adults think a university education is worth £9,000 a year, while 59 per cent think two-year degrees are a good cash-saving solution, according to a poll. The YouGov survey delivered a damning verdict of the new funding system, which will see maximum fees of £9,000 introduced from 2012-13. One question explains the loans system, asking: "Do you think a university education is or is not worth £9,000 a year?" Just 29 per cent of respondents say it is worth the money, 56 per cent say it is not and 15 per cent are not sure. Asked about two-year degrees, 59 per cent are in favour, 26 per cent are against and 15 per cent "don't know".

Reader panel

THE needs you

Times Higher Education is inviting academic and administrative staff in universities to join its reader panel. If you would be prepared to receive occasional emails from THE journalists asking for your comments on the latest developments in the sector, email John Elmes, THE's editorial assistant.


Last week we reported that Derek Sayer, head of history at Lancaster University, had rescinded an invitation to David Starkey to give a signature lecture there. The Signature Lecture Series is in fact organised by Lancaster's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Professor Sayer was not involved in the decision to revoke the invitation.


Last week, 100 historians signed a letter to Times Higher Education complaining about the BBC's use of David Starkey as a commentator on the recent riots.

One reader writes: "This will delight Dr Starkey, who made his name out of being annoying, and the signatories...will just look like humourless, authoritarian drudges." But another counters: "Using Dr Starkey to comment on rioting in the 21st century is like making a family lawyer do a kidney transplant - it's just not done. Historians have a right to defend the professionalism and rigours of their profession."

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