The week in higher education

December 1, 2011

• An attempt to reignite the "Climategate" row with the leak of a second batch of emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia fell flat. Whereas the release of the first batch in 2009 sparked a global controversy, with three separate inquiries in the UK alone, the new leak attracted only passing interest. The muted reaction was largely due to the fact that the claims about scientists overstating the case for man-made climate change had been rejected by the inquiries, which cleared the academics involved of any scientific wrongdoing. The 5,000 emails released on 22 November may have been published in a bid to disrupt the latest round of United Nations climate change talks, taking place in Durban this week.

• David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said earlier this year that it was one of his priorities to convince academics in the arts and humanities "how much we love them". But classicists at Royal Holloway, University of London appear not to have got the message. On November, it emerged that Edith Hall had resigned from her research chair in Classics and English over plans to merge Classics with the history department - a decision made in light of Mr Willetts' brave new financial settlement for the sector. She says in her resignation letter that the college's senior management "do not, in my view, uphold the values definitive of a university". A Royal Holloway spokeswoman said the college "wished her well". But Professor Hall responds on her blog: "University leaders used to be distinguished academics who fought for, rather than against, their co-lecturers and students. They also used to have sufficient courage of their convictions ... to speak to the public for themselves without employing 'directors of communication'."

• If classicists remain sceptical about Mr Willetts' drive to "show them the love", then staff at the University of East Anglia's School of Music must be equally nonplussed. The university announced on 28 November that it was to close the school after a review found that the subject was financially unsustainable and might have put other humanities subjects at risk. Richard Jewson, chair of the UEA's council, said the decision had given him "no pleasure", but that it would have been "irresponsible to ignore the danger signals". "The university cannot afford to continue to subsidise a school where the...prospects are so challenging, and this is the best way we can safeguard and strengthen other humanities subjects," he said. Tough love, indeed.

• A vicious literary spat could be heading to a libel court after the historian Niall Ferguson warned that a review that he claims casts him as a racist is defamatory. The review of the Harvard University professor's book Civilization: The West and the Rest appeared in the London Review of Books and was written by the Indian author Pankaj Mishra. After a back-and-forth debate in the LRB's letters page, Professor Ferguson said on 28 November that "if [Mishra] won't apologise for calling me a racist, I will persecute him until he does". He added: "There was a time when one expected better from the literary world, to play the ball not the man. But it seems to be becoming de rigueur for mediocrities to build their fame on attacking those more successful than them."

• Campaigners have welcomed the announcement of a £200 million boost to science funding that includes tens of millions in extra capital investment for the research councils. In his Autumn Statement on 29 November, the Chancellor, George Osborne, revealed that a number of projects would benefit from the funding, including £80 million for the next phase of the Institute for Animal Health's Pirbright Laboratory. The research councils will also receive £61 million for capital spending, which was a major casualty in last year's Comprehensive Spending Review. According to the Campaign for Science and Engineering, this means that £500 million in extra funding has been announced since the CSR, which revealed an effective £1.7 billion cut in science spending over four years.

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