The week in higher education

January 28, 2010

In these technological times, it may come as a surprise that the most popular method of cheating among students is scrawling notes on their arms before exams. The enduring popularity of the ruse was identified in a rather unscientific survey by The Sun, which said that buying essays off the internet was also commonplace. The newspaper claimed on 20 January that Teesside University was the "worst campus for cheating", citing data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that showed it expelled 17 cheats last year, followed by the universities of Middlesex (15) and Kingston (10).

The Medical Research Council is to move some of its operations to Swindon. It was reported on 20 January that the London-based MRC will join the other research councils when the lease on its current premises expires at the end of 2010. About 90 staff working on science strategy and policy issues will remain in the capital.

An academic will live in an airport terminal for a year as part of a study of passengers' and workers' habits. Anthropologist Damian O'Doherty, of the University of Manchester, will spend up to 18 hours a day at Manchester airport for the next 12 months, it was reported on 22 January. Dr O'Doherty's year-long project has drawn comparisons with the plight of Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived at Charles de Gaulle airport for 18 years.

A company owned by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser is opposing plans to create the world's largest marine reserve. The Marine Resources Assessment Group, which is owned by John Beddington and his wife, holds a government contract to manage fishing in the area of the Chagos Islands in the British Indian Ocean Territory. A consultation is being carried out on whether to ban all fishing in the area. Professor Beddington's company has argued that there is no evidence that a ban would improve the environment, it was reported on 22 January.

The funding cuts facing higher education are prompting universities to reduce the number of student places, it was claimed on 24 January. The Sunday Times reported that the London School of Economics and the universities of Essex and Edinburgh were slashing numbers for their 2010 intake, linking their decisions to the cuts announced in the recent grant letter. However, the LSE and Essex both told Times Higher Education that the reduction in places was not related to the funding crisis, while Edinburgh - which is not affected by the cuts facing English institutions - said it was trimming its intake to balance overall student numbers after two years of over-recruitment.

In a cock-up bound to cheer campus librarians up and down the country, a student at the University of Central Lancashire has been fined £200,000 for losing a book. Stewart McCullough paid what should have been a £20 fine on his debit card, but staff at Uclan library accidentally charged him 10,000 times the correct amount. It was reported on 25 January that the charge was accepted by his bank, which contacted the journalism student to warn him that he had exceeded his overdraft. The university said it was "looking at improving procedures".

A review of a suspected terrorist's undergraduate years will examine whether the Islamic Society at University College London contributes to the radicalisation of students. UCL announced the terms of reference for an independent review of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's time as a student at the university on 25 January. The Nigerian national is alleged to have attempted to blow up a US passenger jet over Detroit last month. The review is to be chaired by Dame Fiona Caldicott, principal of Somerville College and pro vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford. It will "examine all aspects of Mr Abdulmutallab's time at UCL, including his period as president of the student Islamic Society, and explore how far there were at that time - and/or today - conditions at UCL that might contribute to the radicalisation of students".

http://bit.ly/8iJmNA.

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