Peep's Diary

November 23, 2007

Coffee? Cake? Alphabet soup?

Pity David Eastwood, the chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England. He must have thought Hefce's annual meeting with university governors held last Friday was going well. The pastries had been top quality, he'd given a good speech, and the question session was swimming along.

Then one Robin Guthrie, the chair of governors at York St John University, struck. "With apologies for utter naivety ... what does "DIUS" stand for and does "STEM" stand for anything or is it just a metaphor?" the nonplussed Guthrie wanted to know.

The leech report

Eco-tourism is all very well on paper, but as one former Swansea student found out, it can be a little more hazardous in practice.

Jim Sheridan is seeking damages from the Swansea Institute of Higher Education after a barefoot jungle walk in Sri Lanka ended, he says, with his being covered in leech bites and suffering health problems.

The 2001 field trip was part of the MSc in tourism and leisure programme. Andrew Jones, senior lecturer at the institute, told Neath County Court that the trip's aim was to look at the challenges of developing eco- tourism in developing countries.

Taming the heavenly host

Cambridge University knows how to set itself a difficult task. The university is planning to act as a sort of ecclesiastical marriage guidance counsellor to stop church leaders coming to theological blows over controversial issues.

The university has written to six church leaders inviting them on a course on "conflict transformation". The course is intended to help them deal with conflicts from large-scale to local disagreements.

Sara Savage, a senior researcher at the university, said that the church was not good at handling conflict and painted a grim picture of what could happen if divisions fester. "Instead of the churches being contexts for grace and loving challenge, they can become arenas for bullying, blaming and scapegoating," she said.

"Without a structured approach, the tensions underlying conflicts tend to build and develop the potential to leave people deeply wounded and to tear churches apart."

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