The week in higher education

July 17, 2008

The renaming of a Cambridge college after benefactors who donated £30 million has elicited an angry letter from a former student that has been signed by another 66 alumni. The graduates, including Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton, criticised the decision to rename New Hall as Murray Edwards College after the gift from Ros and Steve Edwards. In a letter to New Hall's president they decried the "cavalier attitude taken with New Hall's brand" and lack of consultation, the Evening Standard reported on 8 July. The letter adds: "I find it both ironic and distasteful that the (Edwards) name is that of the alumna's husband."

A row has broken out between Downing Street and the Department of Health over delays to a flagship Bill to push back the boundaries of science. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which would give the go-ahead to research on animal-human hybrid embryos, was at its final Commons stage when it was unexpectedly withdrawn. Number 10 had been bracing itself for a bruising day, with backbench MPs planning to table amendments to liberalise Britain's abortion laws. The third and final reading of the Bill will now take place in autumn, The Guardian reported on 11 July.

A health scare triggered at Manchester Metropolitan University when a former student was diagnosed with tuberculosis has led to 22 other people being found to be carrying the infection. Hundreds of recent students who may have had contact with the woman have been tested, and health workers are trying to contact another 150 who may have been at risk. It is not thought that any current students have tested positive for TB, which is commonly spread by breathing in infected droplets after exposure to someone with the condition, the BBC reported on 11 July.

Summer babies, who are born later in the school year, are significantly less likely to go to university when they reach the age of 18 or 19 than those born earlier. The results of a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that children who are the youngest in their class also have less chance of making it to "high-status" universities, The Sunday Telegraph reported on 13 July.

Under a new scheme expected to be unveiled this week, Armed Forces personnel will be offered free university or college places when they leave service, if they have been in the Forces for six years or more. The Government will pay tuition fees in a move that Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup said would tackle the "disadvantages" suffered by soldiers, sailors and aircrew. The scheme, which will also cover spouses of veteran soldiers killed in action, was hailed by the News of the World on 13 July as "an inspirational reward to some of the finest in the land".

The "depressingly" low aspirations of some state-school pupils in London must be lifted through stronger links with universities, Schools Minister Lord Adonis has said. Every state school in the capital should have a partnership with a university, with tutors becoming school governors, universities sponsoring academies, providing training to heads and offering advice to sixthformers. He told the Evening Standard on 14 July: "The area where universities have most to add is in instilling greater ambition in the most able students."

When the University of Warwick, the only institution to belong to both the 1994 Group and the Russell Group, said it was leaving the former but staying in the latter, some jumped at the chance to speculate that daggers were being drawn. Warwick's decision "cleared the battle lines" between the "rival" groups, The Guardian said, quoting an anonymous vice-chancellor who predicted that the 1994 Group was well placed to "knock the Russell Group off its perch". Not so, said 1994 Group chairman Steve Smith in a letter to the paper on 15 July. "Let us be clear, we have no desire to knock the Russell Group, or indeed any other group, off whatever perch they might be on," he said.

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