The week in higher education – 16 July 2015

The good, the bad and the offbeat: the academy through the lens of the national press

July 16, 2015
The week in higher education cartoon (16 July 2015)

Maybe canines would be better off in higher education. A cocker spaniel named Fudge has donned graduation robes to help his owner pick up a degree, The Independent reported on 7 July. The six-year-old dog’s role in the ceremony at Edinburgh Napier University followed his star turn in several of Jack Proctor’s videos for his design and digital arts degree. “I know it seems eccentric, but Fudge has been part of my journey through uni since day one, so it just feels like a nice way to mark the journey's end,” said Mr Proctor, whose comedy video snippets have been viewed millions of times on YouTube. "He was such a fundamental part of my dissertation that I even mentioned him in the acknowledgement section,” he added.


Academics at the University of Liverpool have been criticised by dog breeders for “fat-shaming” their pedigree pooches, the Daily Telegraph reported on 14 July. One in four dogs at Crufts are overweight, according to the Liverpool study in which they examined 1,120 online images of recent entrants, the paper said. The public profile of the supposedly ideal specimens may mean that the Kennel Club competition is “normalising” obesity in dogs and that fat entrants should be barred from winning top prizes, say the authors of the study published in Veterinary Record. But breeders and the Kennel Club have hit back, claiming that it is impossible to gauge the weight of an animal from a photograph. “Everyone knows the camera adds pounds…so I think the methodology here is questionable,” insisted one indignant Labrador owner.


Sajid Javid’s call for international students to study in the UK and then leave immediately provoked some anguished responses from vice-chancellors. Ending the possibility of post-study work would lead to the closure of science and engineering courses, harm international trade links and deprive the UK economy of billions of pounds, claimed university leaders in response to the business secretary’s comments on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 10 July. None of the appeals to reason, however, were more impassioned than one published by Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, who felt “dismayed” that Mr Javid did not share his own “love” for international students and their positive impact on society. “I know in my heart that our international students bring to us a bounty that is more than money or any simple expressed benefit,” wrote Sir Keith, asking: “Do you feel that too?” With new curbs on international postgraduates on the table, according to The Times on 13 July, perhaps Sir Keith’s more emotional appeals to ministers are a better way to win the argument than simply listing cold, hard facts?


 A “racist” statue of the “father of apartheid” Cecil Rhodes should be removed from a University of Oxford college, according to a group of students. The statue of the 19th-century diamond magnate has stood in Oriel College for more than 100 years, but the Rhodes Must Fall movement is calling for its removal, Sky News reported on 12 July. The group wants Oriel – Rhodes’ old college, which received 2 per cent of his estate on his death in 1902 – to follow the example of the University of Cape Town, which pulled down its statue of the white supremacist in April. "It's a reminder...that when this university was built it was built off the back of exploiting labour and the colonial project –  it's something that still gets celebrated in the form of a statue,” said student Annie Teriba. Oriel drew a “clear line between acknowledging the historical fact of Rhodes' donation and in any way condoning his political views”, the college said.


The Duke of York will bring many things to his new role as chancellor of the University of Huddersfield – enthusiasm, business contacts, royal cachet – but a decent knowledge of Star Trek is not one of them. Bidding farewell to his predecessor Sir Patrick Stewart, who held the role for 11 years, Prince Andrew thanked the actor, whose alter ego is Captain Jean-Luc Picard, with the words “live long and prosper” and a Vulcan salute, the Lancashire Evening Post reported on 13 July. The line went down well at the handover ceremony, but will surely infuriate Trekkies across the world; it was, of course, uttered by Leonard Nimoy’s Spock in an entirely different Star Trek series to Sir Patrick’s. Captain Picard, worshipped by fans for his many wise sayings on Star Trek: The Next Generation, is best known for his catchphrase “Make it so”.

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