The week in higher education - 17 July 2014

July 17, 2014
  • One of David Willetts’ final acts as universities and science minister last week was to express “confidence” in the chairman of the Student Loans Company after he offered to resign over graduates being sent “misleading” letters demanding repayment that appeared to come from a debt recovery firm. Since 2005, the SLC has sent about 309,000 graduates letters under the trading name Smith Lawson & Company in an effort to recover money. Only after the Financial Conduct Authority sanctioned the payday lender Wonga in late June for similar tactics did the SLC agree to halt the practice. According to a statement from Mr Willetts on 8 July, Christian Brodie offered a “clear and unequivocal apology” over the affair and tendered his resignation. The resignation was not accepted by Vince Cable, the business secretary, as the practice had been going on for nearly 10 years and Mr Brodie started only in February.
  • Sports science students in Germany gave their country’s formidable World Cup-winning football team a vital competitive edge in their push for sporting glory, their team’s assistant coach has revealed. Hansi Flick told a press conference ahead of the team’s remarkable 7-1 semi-final triumph over Brazil that research by University of Cologne students had helped their management team to compile detailed analyses of opposition players, Reuters reported on 7 July. “The sports students in Cologne have been studying in great detail our opponent and put every play they’ve run, every newspaper article on them, and everything about them out there under the microscope and made all that data available to us,” Flick said. England’s 72-strong entourage in Brazil included a psychiatrist, nutritionists and a turf specialist. Maybe they should throw in a couple of sports science students for the 2018 trip to Russia if they want to improve on this year’s dire showing.
  • A Leeds Metropolitan University academic who stripped off during a lecture is being investigated over his unusual teaching methods, the Daily Mail reported on 10 July. Ian Lamond, who lectures in events management, performed a striptease in an apparent bid to demonstrate to students how to give an exciting sales pitch, the paper said. Photos show Dr Lamond removing his trousers and purple shirt and standing in front of first-year students wearing just a pair of grey underpants. Video footage posted online shows several students chuckling, but others failed to comprehend his point. “I have literally no idea what is going on right now – why is my lecturer semi-naked,” one student tweeted. Leeds Met said that Dr Lamond, dubbed “The Smutty Professor” by the Mail, had not been suspended but that the matter was being examined.
  • Hollywood legend John Wayne fought renegade gunslingers and Apache warriors in his film career, but his latest adversary – Duke University – is quite different. According to Fox News on 11 July, the heirs of the late movie star are locked in a legal battle with the North Carolina university over the family’s right to market bottles of whiskey branded with Wayne’s nickname, Duke. Lawyers for the university say that allowing the Wayne estate to do so could cause confusion and “diminish, dilute and tarnish” the value of the name, for which both parties hold trademarks. But John Wayne’s son Ethan says the image on the bottle of Wayne holding a rifle is entirely different from Duke’s own products based around its Blue Devils mascot. It seems that when millions of pounds are at stake in varsity-branded merchandise, a university’s gotta do what a university’s gotta do.
  • A lesbian student who married her partner has been expelled from an Oklahoma university for violating its “lifestyle covenant”, the Washington Post reported on 11 July. Christian Minard, 22, was kicked out of Southwestern Christian University just one semester before she was due to graduate in sports management after her marital union put her at odds with the university’s ban on “homosexual behaviour”, the paper wrote. Ms Minard acknowledged breaching the covenant she had signed upon enrolling at the Pentecostal-affiliated institution, but still felt unfairly treated. “Students violate parts of that covenant all the time, but they don’t get expelled,” she said. “I didn’t even get a hearing, just a letter to my parents.”
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