The week in higher education

August 2, 2012
  • Regent's College received glowing praise after it became the latest private institution to secure degree-awarding powers. A leader in The Times on July declared that the award "introduces a welcome bit of extra competition into a sector where there is far too little". It also argued against bringing private providers under the same fair access regime and student number caps as the state-funded sector, a move the government is proposing. Even a spokesman for the University and College Union, sworn enemy of the for-profit sector, raised no objection, pointing out in a BBC online story that the charitable Regent's College is "not geared to making profits for shareholders". Aldwyn Cooper, principal of Regent's, described this as "the first nice thing the UCU has ever said about us" - and planned a thank-you letter in return.
  • Unless you count an appearance by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, the frantic medley of Britain's greatest cultural exports in the Olympic opening ceremony on July contained no mention of universities, effectively ranking the sector below Tiger Feet, by Seventies glam rockers Mud, in terms of national significance. While no one was expecting the words "£9,000 fees" to appear in lights around the stadium, it would have been nice to get a mention. On the subject of the ceremony's politics, academic analysis was forthcoming from Rodney Atkinson, a former lecturer at the University of Mainz and brother of actor Rowan, who featured prominently in the ceremony. Rodney told The Daily Telegraph that the ceremony "had strong strands of the parochial Left", adding that he was annoyed by its "assumption that the Industrial Revolution was oppressive". It remains unclear why David Starkey was not consulted for his view on the opening ceremony.
  • The killer of an Indian postgraduate student has been sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in jail after being found guilty of murder. Anuj Bidve, 23, who was studying microelectronics at Lancaster University, was shot dead at point-blank range on Boxing Day 2011 on a Salford street. Kiaran Stapleton, 21, attacked him "with no warning or motive", The Times reported on July. The Daily Mail quoted Mr Bidve's father, Subhash, as saying: "Initially he wanted to go to the US and Australia but we had heard cases of racist attacks on foreign students in both countries and we thought it was not completely safe. The UK is a multi-cultured society with a long and rich history with India so we were confident he would be both safe and happy in the UK."
  • The Daily Mail has hunted down former students who feature alongside chancellor George Osborne in a newly discovered photograph of the Bullingdon Club, the exclusive University of Oxford dining society. In a story published on 28 July, the newspaper described the young men in the picture as "oozing entitlement" as they laid claim "to their place at the top of the social elite". But a few of the alumni pictured in the photograph taken in 1993 have disappointed by ending up in positions that might be derided as wet by the typical Buller member. One now runs a mail-order food business, another is director of a renewable energy company and a third is married to a Guardian journalist. The last is Jo Johnson - the Conservative MP and younger brother of Boris Johnson - who married Amelia Gentleman, a Guardian writer on social affairs. The Mail noted that the younger Mr Johnson "declined to comment on the Bullingdon photograph - or why he is the only member of the club wearing grey trousers".
  • For-profit universities were lambasted in one of the US' biggest newspapers. A USA Today editorial put the boot in after a damning Senate committee report into the industry found that such companies spent just 17.7 per cent of their income - the majority of which comes from federal grants and loans - on teaching, yet took 19.4 per cent for profit distribution. USA Today said on 31 July: "Taxpayer money going into for-profit colleges would be better spent on community colleges ... All they (community colleges) lack is a powerful lobby that throws its weight around in Washington to sustain business models that are too often based on picking taxpayers' pockets."

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