The week in higher education - 13 March 2014

March 13, 2014
  • Dozens of students from Indian-controlled Kashmir were suspended from university for cheering Pakistan’s victory over India in a cricket match, The Daily Telegraph reported on 5 March. The students were watching the Asia Cup clash in a hostel at Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, in the northern city of Meerut, with rival fans. But things turned nasty after Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi clinched the tie with two sixes, the paper said. The Kashmiri students’ celebrations angered their Indian compat-riots, which led to fights breaking out, with students later suspended by the university for making “anti-national, pro-Pakistan” chants. “It was fine till India lost the game…the Indian students were enraged and they started beating students from Kashmir,” said one of the students. The students faced sedition charges, but these were later dropped after protests by Kashmiri leaders.
  • New immigration minister James Brokenshire has not only ruffled the feathers of vice-chancellors with his first major speech. He also scored “an own goal” by criticising the “wealthy metropolitan elite” who employ cheap labour after it emerged that David Cameron had hired two nannies from outside the European Union, the Financial Times reported on 6 March. Instead of playing the class card, Mr Brokenshire might do better to re-examine border policy affecting higher education, and not just in relation to students. Another case involving academics was highlighted last week by Mark Whittow, lecturer in Byzantine studies at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph on 6 March. He mentioned a $470 (£280) visa fee charged to a Turkish academic who wished to give a talk about the excavations of Istanbul harbour – a “shameful episode” that prevented her visit, Dr Whittow said.
  • The University of Oxford’s top brass has hit back at claims that it is a “complacent establishment” which “lives off past glories, and is doomed to fade unless it reforms vigorously”. The accusations were levelled in the Financial Times on 5 March by alumnus Luke Johnson. But Oxford pro vice-chancellors Sally Mapstone and Ian Walmsley were quick to rebut, in a letter to the FT the following day, Mr Johnson’s claims that the university had been slow to adapt to the world of online learning or to exploit its intellectual property. The pair pointed to the 21.5 million podcast downloads made so far and its 1.4 million Facebook and Twitter followers, while cash was also rolling in from various start-up companies linked to Oxford.
  • Students will strip down this weekend for Britain’s inaugural “Mr University” bodybuilding contest. Taking place at Leicester’s O2 Academy on 16 March, the inter-university fitness competition has been co-founded by former University of Leicester aerospace engineering student Dave Bissell. The 22-year-old, who is an award-winning bodybuilder, told the Leicester Mercury on 10 March that he is on a mission to “make it cool for students to be fit”. The event may soon become the definitive varsity sporting competition for today’s gym-going generation of students, who seem less likely than ever to prop up the student union bar.
  • The shambles over the disciplinary process for those who took part in an occupation at the University of Sussex last year has continued, with one student delivering a statement to his hearing questioning its legality. Initial proceedings collapsed in January when a disciplinary panel chair stepped down in the face of a legal challenge from the students’ lawyers, including QC Geoffrey Robertson. Times Higher Education understands further hearings under different regulations took place on 4 and 6 March, and students were told that they were not entitled to legal representation. However, a letter to the university from solicitors Irvine Thanvi Natas says attempts to deny the students legal representation were “unacceptable, unlawful and would amount to an abuse of process”. One student involved, Michael Segalov, submitted a statement to his hearing without speaking and left. Since then he said he has heard nothing from the university. Sussex would not comment on the detail of the cases.
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