The week in higher education

July 21, 2011

Middlesex University is to become "the most expensive in Britain", according to a newspaper. Figures from the Office for Fair Access show that Middlesex will charge annual tuition fees of £8,602 after financial support is taken into account. The Times said on 13 July that barring arts colleges, this was the top fee - despite the fact that City University London has an £8,728 fee on the same criteria. Middlesex, the newspaper noted sniffily, "was formed from the merger of a technical institute and teacher training college". Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore defended her alma mater, adding that fellow journalists were stunned when she told them she had attended "Middlesex Poly". One "very illustrious" editor told her: "That must be why you have such an extraordinary view of the world."

• A student is trying to block an attempt by a pornographic film company to force his university to release his name as part of legal action against piracy. The Californian production company, Third Degree Films, has filed a subpoena seeking the name and details of the 19-year-old Purdue University student after identifying an IP address it claims was used to illegally download one of its films. However, the student has asked a court to quash the subpoena to prevent "reputational injury to a promising young college student", it was reported on 14 July. The subpoena also seeks IP addresses at seven other US universities.

• A German politician stripped of his doctorate for plagiarism has blamed his misdemeanours on a spell at the University of Oxford. Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a Free Democrat MEP, has had his doctorate annulled by the University of Bonn, it was reported on 15 July. Bonn said Mr Chatzimarkakis, the third German politician to suffer such a fate in recent months, had included verbatim passages from others' work without quotation marks. But the former research Fellow at St Antony's College said that at Oxford "they phrase things somewhat differently". Ruth Collier, the head of Oxford's press office, said: "It's hard to believe there would have been encouragement to use substandard academic practices from Oxford."

• A university that stood in the way of romance has finally redeemed itself by delivering a love letter to a student - 53 years late. The letter, discovered this month in the post room at the California University of Pennsylvania, was sent to Clark C. Moore, then a student, by his girlfriend. It was postmarked 20 February 1958 and signed "love forever, Vonnie", it was reported on 17 July. Mr Moore subsequently changed his name to Muhammad Siddeeq, making him harder to trace. Mr Siddeeq eventually married his girlfriend and they have four children. He said the letter was "a testament of the sincerity, interest and innocence of that time". The only blot on the story is that the couple are now divorced.

• A University of Cambridge student was handed a 16-month jail sentence after committing violent disorder on a tuition fees protest. Charlie Gilmour, 21, the son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, was accused of throwing a bin at a convoy of cars carrying Prince Charles and of swinging on the Cenotaph during the demonstration in London on 9 December 2010. In The Daily Telegraph on 18 July, Cristina Odone called the sentence harsh and linked it to Gilmour's status as an "Oxbridge golden youth". She lamented that "when a court decides that a man of privilege should suffer greater punishment because of his privilege, then prejudice, not justice, informs the law".

• A global tobacco company has been accused of trying to sabotage the work of researchers at a Scottish university by issuing "vexatious" requests for data. Philip Morris International, which accounts for almost a fifth of the cigarette trade outside the US, used the Freedom of Information Act to seek information from the University of Stirling's Centre for Tobacco Control Research, it was reported on 18 July. Stirling dismissed the request, claiming that the company was attempting to disrupt a project looking at how plain packaging might reduce tobacco sales. However, the Scottish Information Commissioner has ruled that there was no evidence of "attempted disruption or harassment".

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