News in brief

July 26, 2012

Exam howlers

Winner was out to lunch

The winner of this year's Times Higher Education "exam howlers" competition is Kevin Ruane, professor of modern history at Canterbury Christ Church University. Dozens of comical errors from this summer's exam papers were submitted by our readers, including hilarious typos, unfortunate spoonerisms and daft misunderstandings. But Professor Ruane wins a magnum of champagne for his entry, written by a second-year student, who said: "In 1945 Stalin began to build a buffet zone in Eastern Europe." Runner-up was David Ganz, emeritus professor in palaeography at King's College London, who was amused by a student's claim that "most books were written on valium" in the Middle Ages, rather than vellum.


Hacking trail goes cold

Norfolk police have closed their inquiry into the hacking of University of East Anglia emails that led to the 2009 "Climategate" scandal. Climate change sceptics claimed that emails sent by scientists at UEA's Climatic Research Unit, released on the internet ahead of the United Nations' climate change conference in Copenhagen, revealed they had manipulated data and tried to suppress criticism. A series of subsequent inquiries found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct at the unit. The police said that despite a "comprehensive investigation", there was no "realistic prospect of identifying the...offenders and launching criminal proceedings within the time constraints (three years) imposed by law". Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said the investigation had "scotched the myth that (the emails) were leaked by a disaffected staff member". But he added: "There is a danger that the criminals who carried out this act will escape justice."

Overseas students

Visa limbo

More than 600 people have signed an online petition complaining about delays in the processing of post-study work visa applications by the UK Border Agency. The petition, featured on the Avaaz campaigning website, says that "thousands" of international students have been waiting five months or longer for a decision, leaving them without passports or other identity documents and thus preventing them from leaving the UK. It claims that students have been unable to get information from the UKBA about the status of applications and that the agency's website gives "sparse and misleading information regarding processing times and application progress". The government closed the post-study work route on 6 April, although students could apply for visas up until that date.


Benefactor targets topic of cancer

A university has received £10 million from an anonymous philanthropist, the largest donation in its history. The funding, announced on 18 July, will go towards building a cancer immunology centre at the University of Southampton, which is set to open in 2015. The same private donor also gave £10 million to Cancer Research UK, which - like Southampton - is the organisation's largest-ever single donation. The gift was made towards the charity's campaign to raise £100 million to fund the Francis Crick Institute in St Pancras, London, a collaboration with the government, three London universities and the Wellcome Trust.


Last week's report that the Welsh government is to consult on the dissolution of Cardiff Metropolitan University despite its governing body's rejection of merger plans sparked debate. "The Welsh Labour education minister, on the advice of the [vice-chancellor of the University of] Exeter, is going to take a university that's doing OK (solvent, successful and well run - according to Sir Steve Smith) and then force it to merge with two other institutions because it seems like a good thing to do," a reader says. "[It's] a disgrace."

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