The Week in Higher Education

March 6, 2008

Of all newspapers, the Government may have least expected the Financial Times to be leading the attack on its plans to increase the involvement of business in the design and funding of degree courses. But on 28 February, the pink 'un waded into the debate.

In a leader column, it identified a key problem: "employers are - sensibly enough - most interested in what will make their staff better employees in the immediate future. They may not be the best judge of what skills will be most valued in decades to come."

But in addition to this, it said, "there is a more fundamental flaw".

The Government's higher level skills drive includes "a nod to the idea that higher education is about more than wealth creation, but no more than a nod," it said. "It is dispiriting to think that greater prosperity seems to have produced a government mentality that regards understanding primarily as a means to a more productive job rather than an end in itself."


On 1 March, several newspapers gleefully reported on the City trader who "tried to help a struggling economics student through his degree by sitting the exams for him" (Daily Mail).

High-earning trader Jerome Drean, 34, sat a number of tests for Elnar Askerov, using a fake ID card, "for the thrill of it", the paper said. Although he looked nothing like Mr Askerov, who was sitting an economics and finance degree at the University of York, Mr Drean got away with the scam eight times, but was finally spotted by a lecturer and questioned.

The pair were both given suspended jail sentences after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the university between January 2006 and May 2007.

"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed The Sunday Times on 2 March, shocked at the news that "Brecht and Moliere may have taken their last bow for A-level students".

Set texts by classic European authors, the paper reported, are to be axed from the modern language A levels offered by English exam boards.


The University of St Andrews University was hauled over the coals in the 3 March edition of The Guardian over the institution's links to Japanese whaling. It reported that the university "was criticised for accepting funds for whale research from the Japanese agency which directs the country's annual whale hunt".

The Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research is regarded as a "scientific fig leaf for the country's commercial whaling ambitions" and conservationists argued that by accepting £31,900 in 2002 and £5,000 in 2005, St Andrews was "helping to legitimise its activities".

The university appeared ready to rule out accepting future funding from the Japanese body, saying in a statement that it was "carrying out a detailed review of its current policy for accepting research commissions to ensure no inconsistency with our commitment to conservation".


As Times Higher Education went to press, the largest-ever survey of international students was due to show that they rate their lecturers highly but are less than impressed with the cost of studying in the UK.

A poll of 54,800 international students showed that 94.5 per cent were satisfied with the quality of expert lecturers, while more than 88 per cent said that they believed their teachers were good, and that they were happy with their course content.

Overall, nearly 80 per cent of the overseas students surveyed told the International Graduate Insight Group (i-graduate) that they were happy with their experience of studying in Britain.

Of the 66 aspects of learning and living surveyed, the lowest rated were accommodation costs in Britain (just 58 per cent of respondents were satisfied), living costs (60 per cent), and financial support (61 per cent approval rating).

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