The week in higher education

November 27, 2008

In a plea to the developed world, an academic with experience of the limitations on research in Africa has called for a rethink of how PhD training is made available. Heather Ferguson, research fellow at the University of Glasgow, said the "rich world" had to improve accessibility to affordable postdoctoral training for the global good. Writing in the Financial Times on 19 November, she said: "This is no mere act of charity ... We cannot tackle looming global challenges without the experience and commitment of those most affected."

A philanthropist who had Imperial College London's business school named after him when he pledged to donate £ million has been convicted of fraud. Gary Tanaka, a 65-year-old businessman, was found guilty in the US of three offences - carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail, The Independent reported on 20 November. Imperial named the Tanaka Business School after him four years ago but changed it earlier this year to Imperial College Business School. It said at the time that the aim was to improve international recognition. The school is housed in the Tanaka Building.

Diplomas received a boost when the universities of Cambridge and Oxford announced that they would accept students taking the new qualification. However, watering down the vote of confidence, they said that students admitted on the strength of advanced diplomas in engineering would have to take an A level in physics as well, The Daily Telegraph reported on 21 November. This amounts to a "tacit admission that dons will effectively close the door to teenagers studying diplomas in other practical subjects", the paper said.

Corby, Crawley and Croydon are all bidding to become university towns. Others among the areas in England hoping to win funding to launch new higher education centres include Basingstoke, Dudley and Stockport. They are among the first places to apply to take part in the Government's "university challenge" initiative launched in March, The Guardian said on 21 November. The centres, which will aim to rejuvenate areas in the economic doldrums, will be linked to existing universities nearby that will accredit their degrees. David Baker, chair of GuildHE, expressed some concern in the light of the Government's recent freeze on more increases in student numbers for next year. "Rather than launching a new set of initiatives at a time of tight funding constraints, we would prefer a focus on all the existing work that already has a good track record," he said. A diary item in The Guardian on 25 November also noted that the initiative "was dreamt up to compensate those areas that had been earmarked for the building of super-casinos until the Government did a U-turn".

Cambridge uproar over its very own Page 3 girl," the Daily Mail gasped on 21 November. This was the news that student magazine Vivid had published a picture of a topless student on one of Cambridge's historic bridges.

After more than a decade at the helm, Baroness Warwick is to stand down as chief executive of Universities UK in July. On 24 November, Rick Trainor, UUK's president, described her as an "outstanding" leader who had led the organisation "through some turbulent times".

Students taking so-called soft degrees at university do up to a third less work than those on the toughest courses, a survey by the National Union of Students has found. Those doing media studies, publishing and journalism spent 24 hours a week working, compared with 34 hours for students reading medicine and architecture, The Daily Telegraph said on 25 November. The Times, meanwhile, reported the survey's finding that three quarters of students take a job while at university as they struggle to make ends met - even with maximum loans and grants.

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