The week in higher education

November 26, 2009

A former SS sergeant who worked unnoticed for decades as a train-station manager has been charged with 58 counts of murder after a student's undergraduate research uncovered his alleged involvement in a massacre of Hungarian Jews. Adolf Storms, now aged 90, was tracked down by Andreas Forster, a 28-year-old student at the University of Vienna, it was reported on 18 November. The case against him for the mass shooting of dozens of forced labourers will be based on written statements made in previous trials.

The Prime Minister has moved to address growing graduate unemployment with new measures announced in the Queen's Speech. Guarantees unveiled in the speech on 18 November included a promise that new graduates who are still out of work after six months will be given access to a high-quality internship or training, as well as help to become self-employed. Earlier this month, it was reported that graduate unemployment has risen by 44 per cent in the last year, and is now at its highest level for 12 years.

Three quarters of universities have been forced to bail out their students following the long delays in distributing loans and grants, a survey has found. The poll by the BBC reveals that, on average, institutions have paid out £44,000 in emergency funding to those left short by the fiasco, which has prompted calls for Ralph Seymour-Jackson, chief executive of the Student Loans Company, to resign. The University of Portsmouth has paid out £80,000 to tide over students affected by the delays, it was reported on 18 November. John Craven, Portsmouth's vice-chancellor, said he was "angry on behalf of our students who have been badly hit by this".

It was always going to get acres of coverage: palaeontologists at the University of Chicago have unveiled a graveyard of ancient "Supercrocs", some so big they ate dinosaurs. The most ferocious was the "Boar Croc", a 20ft beast that roamed the Earth 100 million years ago. It had an "armoured snout for ramming its prey and three sets of dagger-shaped fangs for slicing up meat", it was reported on 20 November. Other specimens included the "Pancake Croc", a squat fish-eater with a 3ft-long pancake-flat head, and the "Rat Croc", which had buck teeth used to dig up roots and grubs.

Nicolas Sarkozy has run into trouble with French intellectuals after he proposed bestowing the country's greatest posthumous honour on the writer Albert Camus, a man who made a career out of political resistance and literary endeavour. Mr Sarkozy said he thought it would be an "extraordinary symbol" to transfer the Algerian-born author's remains to the Pantheon, the resting place for heroes of France, on the 50th anniversary of his death in January. But on 22 November, experts said the proposal would contradict Camus' life and work, and accused the French President of trying to cash in on the writer's popularity.

Climate-change sceptics have seized on a batch of emails from scientists discussing ways to dodge Freedom of Information Act requests, claiming they show that data behind the debate have been manipulated. Extracts from the emails, obtained by hackers who broke into the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, have been published online, prompting a media storm. The university and scientists involved said the material had been taken out of context. However, the incident led to calls on 23 November from both sides of the debate for an independent inquiry.

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Male students are making themselves heard at some of Britain's leading universities by setting up male-only societies in response to "the current state of masculinity". It was reported on 23 November that the University of Manchester has created the first official men's society - Masculinity Exploring Networking and Support (Mens) - while the University of Oxford has set up the Man Collective - Oxford (MC-O). The latter invited students to join with the slogan: "Have you got balls? Literally. If you have, how does that make you feel?" Supporters insist the societies are essential as young men struggle to cope with the pressures of the modern world.

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