The week in higher education

March 10, 2011




An academic faces an investigation over his decision to stage a live sex show for students involving a sex toy called a "fucksaw". John Bailey, who teaches a popular human sexuality course at Northwestern University in the US, held an after-class event for students with a 25-year-old woman volunteer and her 45-year-old fiancé. According to reports on 3 March, the woman, who is not a student, was "repeatedly stimulated by a motorized sex toy called a 'fucksaw' on stage". In a statement explaining the session, Professor Bailey says he agreed to stage the demonstration when the volunteers suggested it because he "did not wish, and do not wish, to surrender to sex negativity and fear". In a statement, Northwestern president Morton Schapiro says he is "troubled and disappointed by what occurred". He says: "I have directed that we investigate fully the specifics of this incident, and also clarify what constitutes appropriate pedagogy, both in this instance and in the future."

A Scottish university has announced it is to cut up to 95 jobs in a bid to save £5 million from its annual running costs. It was reported on 4 March that Glasgow Caledonian University needed to make savings of £12 million a year by 2014 as a result of cuts in government funding. It has already saved £5 million, with £7 million still to find. The latest proposals may save a further £5 million by July 2012. In a statement, the university says a consultation has been launched on its proposals, which could affect about 6 per cent of its 1,613 staff.

A US college basketball star has been suspended from his team for having premarital sex. Brandon Davies plays for Brigham Young University in the Mormon stronghold of Salt Lake City, Utah. He faces dismissal not only from the team but also from university after admitting to having sex with his girlfriend and breaching his pledge to "live a chaste and virtuous life", it was reported on 4 March. The university said an "honour code review" would determine whether the 6ft 9in tall 19-year-old's expulsion would be permanent. Jimmer Fredette, one of Mr Davies' teammates, said: "He told us he was sorry he let us down. We told him it's OK. Sometimes in life we make mistakes."

Tuition fees for home students in Scotland are expected to be ruled out for at least the next five years, raising fears about the future of university funding in the country. It was reported on 5 March that Labour and the Liberal Democrats have ruled out introducing fees after this year's Holyrood election. Labour had previously indicated that it was in favour of some sort of graduate contribution. The announcement, expected to be mirrored by the Scottish National Party, follows a warning that Scottish universities are facing a funding gap of £93 million. When the fee cap rises to £9,000 a year in England in 2012, the share of the Scottish block grant earmarked for higher education will fall.

A university lecturer who is also the imam of an East London mosque has received death threats for expressing his views on evolution and women's rights. It was reported on 7 March that Usama Hasan, senior lecturer in engineering at Middlesex University and an imam at Leyton mosque, ceased leading Friday prayers after 25 years when protesters disrupted one of his sermons by calling for his execution. A leaflet handed out by the protesters says that any Muslim who believes in evolution is an "apostate" who "must be executed". An online petition that expresses "horror" at Dr Hasan's stance, not only on evolution but also on allowing women to appear in public without a veil, has apparently been signed by 1,000 people.

English universities are more financially reliant on non-European Union students than ever before, according to funding chiefs. A report published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England on 7 March says that fee income from foreign students grew by 17.8 per cent in 2009-10, contributing a total of 9.6 per cent of all income, the highest level to date. The report comes at a time of great concern among vice-chancellors over government plans to restrict the number of student visas.

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