The week in higher education

January 29, 2009

Posing as a "fantasy fireman, buff butler or sexy soldier" was all in a day's work for a cash-strapped student at the University of Aberdeen. Stuart Kennedy viewed his part-time strippagram job as a nice little earner while he studied genetics, The Independent said on 21 January. But unfortunately, dressing (and undressing) as "peeling policeman Sergeant Eros" has led the real boys in blue to arrest Mr Kennedy 22 times for impersonating a police officer. "The hours were great, but it has turned into a nightmare," he said.

As a leading black MP who met Barack Obama at a Harvard alumni event, David Lammy had good reason to attend the President's inauguration, but that did not stop the Higher Education Minister from coming in for some stick. "He met Obama in 2005 when he would have been described as future Labour leader material. That was before he appeared on Celebrity Mastermind last month and came bottom," the Daily Mail sneered on 21 January.

Scientists caused a media stir last week when they published research that found women have more orgasms when they have sex with rich men. The story prompted a question from a Daily Mail diarist on 21 January: "Does that mean frustrated wives can sue Gordon Brown as incomes start to shrivel^^?"

President Obama wasted no time in setting the wheels of his Administration in motion, with US regulators approving the use of embryonic stem cells in humans just two days into his term, the Financial Times reported on 23 January. The move was hailed as "the dawn of a new era" for medical research in the US, where President Obama has pledged to reinstall science to its "rightful place".

Another week and another hammering for diplomas, the Government's controversial attempt to create an equivalent to A levels. On 24 January, The Guardian reported two critical studies that said thousands of diploma students risked ending up with qualifications that universities would not accept. According to a study by the National Foundation for Education Research, teachers "do not rate" the diplomas as suitable for university-bound teenagers. James Turner, director of policy at the Sutton Trust, which commissioned the study, said: "There's a real danger of a divide emerging between those pupils in independent and top state schools ... and students from non-privileged backgrounds."

"Wanted: poets seeking prestige but little cash," reported The Times on 26 January. This was the news that two prestigious posts, the Poet Laureate and the role of professor of poetry at the University of Oxford, are up for grabs. Some of the biggest names in British poetry are vying for the roles, but the paper warned that they should not expect a big pay cheque. The Poet Laureate receives just £5,750 a year and the Oxford post pays £6,901, plus £40 a pop for the odd lecture, it said.

After breaking up with Prince Harry, Chelsy Davy was depicted as a "flighty blonde in a bikini" by the Daily Mail, which seemed more interested in her "deep layer of fake tan" than anything else on 26 January. The comments went down like a lead balloon at the University of Leeds, where Ms Davy has a place on its highly sought-after postgraduate law course and is seen as a bright student, not the trophy girlfriend of a royal who got a B and a D in his A levels.

It took 650 years, but last week the University of Cambridge finally appointed its first female librarian. Anne Jarvis will take responsibility for more than 8 million books, The Daily Telegraph reported on January.

National treasure Sir David Attenborough has revealed that he has received vicious hate mail for his views on evolution. He said his failure to credit God in his documentaries prompted some creationists to "tell me to burn in Hell", The Guardian reported on January.

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