The week in higher education – 14 February 2019

The good, the bad and the offbeat: the academy through the lens of the world’s media

February 14, 2019

It seems a little incredible in 2019 that we need scientists to prove that alcohol in excess gives you a hangover whatever way you drink it. But that is the public service thankfully performed by some researchers who have provided strong evidence that drinking beer before wine won’t necessarily make you feel fine, regardless of what folk wisdom advises. In an experiment conducted at Witten/Herdecke University in Germany, dozens of people got drunk on wine and beer in varying ways before scientists assessed their hangovers the morning after, The Times reported. The findings, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that the only decent guides to the intensity of a hangover the next day were “perceived drunkenness” and vomiting – or, to employ a technical term, the degree to which people were plastered. The participants’ sore heads and debilities were probably not helped by their having been woken, according to the newspaper, by someone using a megaphone.

The English sector regulator, the Office for Students, said that it was investigating governance at De Montfort University following the resignation of its vice-chancellor, Dominic Shellard. In a statement on 11 February, the Leicester-based institution said that Professor Shellard was leaving after “nine successful years…to pursue a range of new opportunities”. Andy Collop, the deputy vice-chancellor, will serve as interim vice-chancellor until further notice. Professor Shellard’s departure followed news last week that the chair of De Montfort’s board of governors, Sir Ian Blatchford, had resigned. An OfS spokesman said that the regulator was “looking into a number of regulatory matters relating to De Montfort University, following the university reporting an issue to us in the autumn”. “While this work is continuing, there is no presumption of wrongdoing by the university and it would be inappropriate to comment further,” he added.

A nasty hangover may be the least of the worries for a lecturer who, it has been claimed, had to be escorted from a class after drunkenly swearing at students then collapsing on the floor. According to a report in The Irish Sun, security guards at University College Cork had to prop up a teacher who fell over in front of students. A letter sent by the class’ student representative to university managers says that the lecturer began slurring their words and swearing at students before collapsing 20 minutes into the session. Describing this as “unacceptable behaviour”, the representative pointed out how much students were paying in tuition fees. In a statement, the university said that it was “aware of the incident” and had “organised a meeting to support the affected students and is providing support to the class instructor”.

It’s not just alcohol that sends students running for the toilets. An enticing intro to a story in The Bristol Tab reported that “Bristol Uni rugby club have removed their Social Sec from his position, following the recent chicken liver incident”. If the recipe includes student rugby union players and chicken livers as ingredients, what do the results taste like? Not great. The club’s new recruits at the start of the year were “made to eat raw chicken livers during a social”, the publication said, after which three participants reported that “they suffered from diarrhoea the next week and endured salmonella-like symptoms”. The University of Bristol has been trying to shed its reputation as a bastion of private school privilege; but rugby union’s attempts to tackle its own problematic reputational issues remain, clearly, a work in progress.

The UK government’s lead adviser on migration has claimed that the Home Office’s net migration target no longer drives policy. Alan Manning, professor of economics at the London School of Economics and chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, told a higher education event in London on 8 February: “My advice to people who worry about the net migration target is to say just pretend it doesn’t exist…[It] is not really influencing policy on student migration at all at the moment and if you keep on mentioning it you’re actually drawing attention to it and pretending it’s a problem when actually it really isn’t.” It is time, then, to attain Professor Manning’s Zen-like state of calm and realise that the consequences of the target and its associated policies – principally the stalling of growth in the UK’s non-European Union student numbers as rival nations have smashed targets for growth, and the loss of billions of pounds to the nation’s economy as a result – were all a strange dream.

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