The week in higher education - 6 June 2013

June 6, 2013
  • Leeds Metropolitan University endured a hostile reception after revealing plans to change its name. After deciding that it has “outgrown” its Met tag, the university’s options for new names are Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Headingley University and Leeds Ridings University, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported on 29 May. Leeds Beckett, a nod to the university’s campus in Beckett Park, may also summon up associations with Samuel Beckett among literary types. But unless the university wants students to expect lengthy silences from lecturers and to feel haunted by a sense of the meaninglessness and the utter futility of life, it may not be the best option from a marketing perspective.
  • The leading lights of the for-profit higher education sector might be unfairly stereotyped as hard-nosed types. Meanwhile, people from Yorkshire have been unfairly stereotyped as keeping a particularly tight rein on their finances. Luckily, both misconceptions were crushed last week by Carl Lygo, principal of BPP University College. BPP has offered free legal advice to a women’s football team, Doncaster Rovers Belles, announced the Doncaster-born barrister on 31 May. The Belles have been controversially demoted from the Women’s Premier League by the Football Association for next season. Weighing in against this “injustice”, Mr Lygo said he has been “inundated with offers of help from our 5,000 law students”.
  • Sir Richard Branson wishes he had gone to university as a mature student “when I’d already had a lot of experiences”. He made the comments in an interview with the London School of Business and Finance to mark the launch of its School of Entrepreneurship, The Daily Telegraph reported on 3 June. Speaking to former education secretary David Blunkett, a visiting lecturer at the institution, the Virgin founder said that he had planned to start university when he turned 40 but was dissuaded by his wife: “She said: ‘It’s a midlife crisis - you’re just after those young ladies at the university.’” That may give female students a chill, but vice-chancellors may have warmer thoughts. Sir Richard also said entrepreneurs should be encouraged “to stay within the confines of the university” instead of leaving to pursue their business plans.
  • David Cameron has promised to look at the “process of radicalisation on our campuses” as he seeks to “drain the swamp” that is creating British Islamic extremism, The Guardian reported on 4 June. Giving his first statement on a task force set up after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, the prime minister said that fresh action would be taken to disrupt groups that incite hatred or violence, including those based in universities, the newspaper said. Mr Cameron’s pledge coincided with a story in the Evening Standard on 3 June about the involvement of London Metropolitan University’s Islamic Society with “a video that claimed that the Woolwich killing was a Government hoax”. According to the newspaper, hours after Drummer Rigby was stabbed to death on 22 May, a video was posted on the society’s Facebook page. The clip, titled “Woolwich false flag bullshit. Masses are in a state-sponsored trance”, suggested that the murder had not happened and was a fabrication. London Met immediately distanced itself from the story, saying “views expressed by individual students or student societies, including on social media, do not represent those of the university”.
  • Indian student numbers have fallen again at some institutions this year, according to a Universities UK report published on 5 June. Drawing on interviews with vice-chancellors as well as admissions figures, the paper notes that overall home and European Union student recruitment in England in 2012-13 was 9 per cent lower than institutions had planned. “This shortfall may in part be due to institutions’ concerns about penalties for under- or over-recruitment,” UUK says. On non-EU students, it says that while overall numbers may have risen in 2012-13, a UUK survey suggests that “institutions are experiencing significant falls in the number of new entrants in 2012-13 from countries including India, Pakistan and Nigeria”. It adds that the percentage of institutions saying that they met overseas recruitment targets fell from 59 per cent in 2011-12 to 44 per cent in 2012-13.

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