The week in higher education

January 5, 2012

• An Indian postgraduate at Lancaster University was shot dead on 26 December as he made his way to the opening of the sales in Manchester. A 20-year-old man has been charged with the murder of Anuj Bidve, 23. Police are treating the killing, which happened in Salford, as a "hate crime". Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East and chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, called for "a full report on the circumstances of his death. Overseas students need to be reassured that the UK has taken every possible step to ensure that such a tragic event will not happen again." UK universities may be nervous about negative coverage of overseas student safety by the Indian press. Australia saw a drop in its overseas student numbers following a series of attacks on Indian students there, which were widely reported in India.

• Female students do better at university when classes are single sex, research suggests. Findings from a pilot study at the University of Essex were reported in The Independent on December. The research indicated that women studying in an all-female group were more likely to take "high-risk options". One participant, Corina Musat, 20, said the group "bonded because we were all girls", adding of the male tutor: "We talked about him a lot." Traditionally, the most ardent supporters of segregation in universities have been Iranian clerics, but following Ms Musat's comments, they may now be challenged for that honour by lecherous male academics.

• David Beckham is at the centre of a bidding war between the Oxford and Cambridge unions, according to the Daily Mirror, as they fight to attract him as a speaker. In a rare appearance for higher education on the paper's 3am showbiz page, an "insider" was reported on 28 December as saying that the LA Galaxy midfielder would be "an inspiration to students". With his over-inflated salary and an unerring ability to convince others of his supreme talent despite limited success at the highest level, Becks could prove an inspiration to some vice-chancellors, too.

• Criticism of the University of Oxford's admissions process by Baroness Kennedy, principal of Mansfield College, aroused status anxiety on The Daily Telegraph's letters page. After the newspaper reprinted sections of the Labour peer's interview with Times Higher Education, Telegraph reader Justin Goddard drew attention to his Classics degrees from Oxford and the University of Cambridge on 28 December. He claimed Baroness Kennedy's views implied that he gained admission "because I came from an upper-middle-class family and applied to read a subject which had too few applicants and was protected by Oxford 'snobbery'." Mr Goddard said he would consider advising his daughter, an Oxford applicant, "to follow the Baroness's example, and go elsewhere, before being elected as an Oxford University head of house: no need then for the tedious admissions process at all".

• Nobel prizewinners and vice-chancellors were among the higher education figures recognised in the New Year Honours announced on 31 December. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, a structural biologist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was knighted for services to molecular biology. Knighthoods for services to science went to University of Manchester physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on graphene, a one-atom-thick form of carbon. Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, was knighted for services to engineering and higher education. Glynis Breakwell, vice-chancellor of the University of Bath, was appointed a dame for services to higher education. Anyone anxiously wondering why there was no sign of an honour for the Universities UK president should not panic. The government has not taken offence at any tough tactics from UUK - it is just that the timer on the automatic knighthood has not gone off yet. There is always next year.

• For a full list of higher education figures who received honours, see: http://bit.ly/uULtxX.

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