Today's news

April 20, 2006

Cambridge don denies indecently assaulting woman in his college rooms
A senior academic at Cambridge University fondled and kissed a former student after inviting her to his college rooms for a drink, a court heard yesterday. Peter Hutchinson, 61, the deputy head of the university's German department, was alleged to have made "a pervy, Benny Hill, lascivious, groaning sort of noise" and given "a saucy chuckle" before putting his hand on the bottom of the 24-year-old woman. A jury at Cambridge Crown Court heard that the victim, a trainee police officer, had reacted by telling him: "Get off me. What the f**k are you doing? I will punch you and kick you."
The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times

University lowered pass mark to 26pc for pharmacy students
A university has been caught lowering a pass mark to 26 per cent to prevent widespread failure of students, a landmark ruling under the Freedom of Information Act has disclosed. The proof that up to 14 per cent was arbitrarily added to the scores of trainee pharmacists to save the university's reputation has renewed concerns over the dumbing down of degrees in the move toward mass higher education. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, ruled that De Montfort, in Leicester, which has 23,000 students, was wrong to withhold documents because they might damage its reputation and commercial interests.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Apr 21)

Lecturers agree to mediation talks
Striking lecturers last night agreed to mediation talks with their employers, providing renewed hope that long-awaited pay discussions may finally begin. The Association of University Teachers and Natfhe met the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association late last night in an emergency meeting to explore a way to end the deadlock over the lecturers' 23 per cent pay demand. However, the AUT and Natfhe refused to agree to suspend their ongoing marking boycott despite a growing resistance from students who fear their graduations could be delayed if the industrial action continues.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Apr 21)

Muslim students 'being taught to despise unbelievers as filth'
Muslim students training to be imams at a British college with strong Iranian links have complained that they are being taught fundamentalist doctrines which describe nonMuslims as “filth”. The texts are taught at the Hawza Ilmiyya of London, a religious school, which has a sister institution, the Islamic College for Advanced Studies, which offers a degree validated by Middlesex University. The students, who have asked to remain anonymous, study their religious courses alongside the university-backed BA in Islamic studies. They spend two days a week as religious students and three days on their university course.
The Times

Legal threat over lecturers' dispute
Lawyers are to encourage students to sue their university or college for "breach of contract" if their degree course is disrupted by the increasingly bitter academics' pay dispute. Legal firms are planning visits to universities and have issued leaflets to students and their parents urging them to consider legal action if exams are not assessed or marked as part of the boycott by academic staff. The prospect of the dispute turning litigious came as informal talks between academics' unions and university bosses broke down yet again this week.
The Independent, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Apr 21)

Universities must pay for big clean-up
Students demonstrating against youth job law reform left behind a "scandalous" trail of damage and destruction in French universities, it emerged yesterday. From the Sorbonne in Paris to Toulouse and Montpellier, colleges are counting the cost, provisionally estimated at £1.5 million, of wrecked furniture, stolen or vandalised equipment and wall-to-wall graffiti. Courses have resumed at those universities that have reopened after Easter. But the government, which gave in to protesters by scrapping the controversial "first job contracts", insists they will receive no help with repairs.
The Daily Telegraph

Pressure to succeed and debt take joy out of study, say students
Pressure to get good grades and the increasing need to take on part-time work to deal with mounting debts is undermining students' love of learning, according to researchers. Psychologists at Stirling University discovered that students found their subjects less enjoyable the further into their studies they went. More than 2,500 students took part in the study. It found that after their first year undergraduates placed greater importance on passing exams than gaining a deeper knowledge of their subject.
The Scotsman

Petition launched to back use of animals in medical research
People who support the use of animals in medical research are planning to take on animal rights activists with the launch today of a campaign to give the "silent majority" a louder voice. The People's Petition, launched by the Coalition for Medical Progress, will ask members of the public to sign up to a set of statements supporting medical research and will call for scientists using animals to be allowed to carry out their work without fear of intimidation or attack.
The Guardian

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