The week in higher education – 27 October 2016

The good, the bad and the offbeat: the academy through the lens of the world’s media

October 27, 2016
The week in higher education cartoon (27 October 2016)

Coventry University has been criticised for paying couples £400 to be filmed having sex, the Daily Mail reported on 21 October. As part of the university’s Chance2Change project to encourage condom use, academics at Coventry want to recruit three couples aged 18 to 25 who will be videoed having sex in what are described as “natural settings”, such as student accommodation or a car, the Mail said. Study leader Kate Newby said that the “tastefully shot” films showing “real couples in loving consensual relationships” were designed to show that condoms do not “kill the mood”, a message that may help to reduce sexually transmitted infections. However, critics accused the university of “wasting public money to follow a trendy right-on agenda”, with one pointing out that the “internet is awash with sex films which could be used to preach its message”.

Israel’s decision to ban a UK-based lecturer from entering the country for 10 years has been condemned, the Independent reported on 18 October. Baroness Amos, director of Soas, University of London, described the treatment of Adam Hanieh as an “arbitrary breach of academic freedom” after he was detained at Ben Gurion airport last month while travelling to Birzeit University in Palestine. Dr Hanieh, a senior lecturer in development studies at Soas who has criticised Israel’s handling of the Palestinian state in his writings, was questioned for 10 hours and taken to a detention centre before he was deported to the UK the following day, the Independent said. In a letter to the Israeli Embassy, former United Nations official Lady Amos asked authorities to explain the reasons for Dr Hanieh’s ban, while Birzeit representatives claimed that such “attack[s] on Palestinian academic freedom” are “routinely practised” by Israel.

A UK university is the latest to introduce a “nap room” where sleepy students can enjoy a short siesta, the Daily Express reported on 20 October. Situated at the heart of the University of St Mark and St John, in Plymouth, the new sleeping room is equipped with ambient floor-level lighting, giant-sized bean bags, scented candles and eye masks, making it a “haven of tranquillity and calm”, reported the paper. “Rest is important because it enables us to focus, recharge our batteries and achieve our best work,” explained Nick Griffin, the university’s chaplain. Traditionalists may scoff at the idea, but it may just open up a few more spaces in the university library, which has long been students’ favoured spot for a mid-afternoon kip.

The latest University Challenge fashion icon has been born, entertainment blog Digital Spy proclaimed on 20 October. Thanks to his Blackadder-esque bowl haircut and black vest, Sam Fairbrother became an instant hit on Twitter on 17 October, with some users saying that he looked more like a 1980s pop star or a Chanel catwalk model than an undergraduate at Jesus College, Cambridge. “‘Jesus, Fairbrother’. Even the announcer has been caught off guard by that vest and hair combo,” remarked one Twitter wag. Bidding farewell after his team’s 195-155 victory over Queens’ College, Cambridge with a raised fist, Mr Fairbrother confirmed without a doubt that he is this year’s break-out star of University Challenge.

In these fevered times of Brexit uncertainty, Theresa May is forever moving to “slap down” members of her Cabinet if they say anything about the nation’s future once it leaves the European Union. She had to do something similar with the chancellor, Philip Hammond, after he told the Treasury select committee on 19 October that there were “conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration”, making specific reference to the treatment of overseas students. After The Guardian reported that change could be afoot, Ms May’s spokesman said on 20 October: “Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included.” When it comes to overseas students, Ms May has plenty of practice at slapping down at the same time as digging her heels in.

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