The week in higher education

May 10, 2012

• A former MI6 man has become the UK's oldest recorded graduate after gaining his third degree at the age of 90, The Independent reported. Bertie Gladwin took a master's in intelligence history at the University of Buckingham, specialising in Second World War code-breakers at Bletchley Park, the newspaper reported on 3 May. The MA was his third foray into higher education, having taken a BA in psychology and a BSc in molecular biology, both from The Open University, while in his sixties. Mr Gladwin, who left school at 14 to work as a greengrocer's assistant, was praised by academics for stirring up political debate in his Buckingham seminars. But he said the aspect he most enjoyed was the social contact with younger students, many of whom were in their early 20s. "They'd invite me out to all their things socially, but I decided I'd miss out on Rag Week," he said. "I still keep in contact with some by email."

• Students must often be berated by lecturers for wasting time texting, but one has decided to put the medium to good use. Alex Edwards, 22, a third-year graphic design student at Northumbria University, hopes his "text-speak" version of Romeo and Juliet will prompt young people to explore fully the beauty of the English language. He translated Act II, Scene II of Shakespeare's love story to show that abbreviated text could not capture the emotion of full sentences, The Daily Telegraph reported on 7 May. Highlights of Mr Edwards' pared-down text include the heroine asking: "O rmo rmo were4 art thou rmo". She continues: "dny thy father n rfse thy name, or if u wilt nt, be bt swrn my luv, I'll no lngr be a cpult".

• Some disappointingly tame pictures illustrated the "chaotic drink-fuelled party" at this year's "Caesarian Sunday" - an event organised annually by University of Cambridge students. While the Daily Mail's prose was impressively colourful on 8 May, describing how "students stripped off, vomited...and drank themselves into oblivion", the photos failed to match up. The lead picture showed five female undergraduates, sensibly dressed in tights, coats and flat shoes - perfectly suited for a chilly May afternoon in the city's main public park - with only one slightly unsteady on her feet. So much for the "carousing, cavorting and collapsing" by 2,000 unruly students on the city's Jesus Green. Are Cambridge's standards of debauchery slipping?

• As many as 15 British universities could be forced to close in the next few years because of the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees, according to an economics professor at the University of Sussex. The gloomy prediction was made by Peter Dolton in an address to the Munich Economic Summit last week, The Australian reported on 8 May. He said there would be an unravelling of the market, with more students heading abroad and low-quality universities that were charging the same as Oxbridge going to the wall.

• Lecturers at post-1992 universities and further education colleges will join rallies in 12 towns and cities as part of a one-day walkout over pensions on 10 May. The strike was sparked by changes to the Teachers' Pension Scheme in early April, which will force staff to work longer and pay more into their pensions in return for reduced payments on retirement. Demonstrations will take place in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London and Sheffield after the University and College Union's national executive committee voted for industrial action on April. UCU members will join their peers from the Public and Commercial Services Union and other bodies on the strike.

• With academics subject to instant ratings on websites such as RateMyProfessors.com, it seems that some are getting their own back. An extract from Penny Junor's book Prince William: Born To Be King: An Intimate Portrait in the Daily Mail suggests that the future King of England's wife may not have made a striking first impression. An unnamed tutor is quoted as saying that the Duchess of Cambridge appeared to be little more than "another girl in a pashmina" when she arrived to study history of art at the University of St Andrews. "When I read about her charismatic personality - well, maybe it's developed, but it wasn't that obvious then," the source continues.

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