The week in higher education – 22 August 2019

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

August 22, 2019
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Goldsmiths, University of London appears to be doing its best to inflame the commentators over at The Daily Telegraph. First, the university decided to ban beef from its campus food outlets in a bid to go carbon neutral, which is apparently “the most extreme, anti-capitalist and indeed anti-human end of the climate debate”, according to columnist Douglas Murray. The latest news to rile the Telegraph is that the university will host a series of lectures organised by the Communist Party of Great Britain, which its headline describes as a “communist summer school”. The paper criticised the move because the speakers include controversial figures such as “Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-Zionist and founding member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign”, prompting claims that Goldsmiths was becoming an unsafe place for Jewish students. The university has, however, pointed out that the event was a long-standing commercial booking and not organised by Goldsmiths.

The seeming trend for today’s students to shun boozy nights out for more studying has been a recurring theme in recent years, but it now appears to have claimed a victim in the form of that bastion of UK university drinking culture – the union bar. Abertay University says that too many students are opting for coffee over alcohol to make its main student bar viable, MailOnline reported. As a result, Bar One – where sales income has dropped by two-thirds over the last five years, according to the university – will only be a bookable space for events. A cafe on the ground floor of the institution’s student centre would still sell non-alcoholic drinks, Abertay said, while a new library cafe was also proving popular with students.

One of the ways that modern students appear to be combating stress, instead of turning to alcohol, has been the emergence of sessions stroking domestic pets to help calm nerves. Now academics at an annual conference in the US will also be able to break from the strains of listening to presentations by getting involved in a “puppy social”. The American Political Science Association confirmed that its annual meeting in Washington at the end of the month would feature such an event after it was spotted on the programme, Inside Higher Ed reported. APSA has partnered with an animal rescue organisation to bring puppies and dogs – which will be available for adoption – to the event. “While our annual meeting is focused on the presentation of the highest scholarly research in our discipline, [it] is very much a family-friendly event,” said association executive director Steven Smith, who also highlighted the childcare facilities that would be available.

Ohio State University caused something of a stir when it emerged that the institution had put in an application to trademark the word “the”. The application for a standard character trademark rests on the institution’s formal name being The Ohio State University, although it is often referred to as Ohio State or OSU. The trademark would cover items such as T-shirts, hats and other merchandise and could prove lucrative thanks to the university’s popular American football team. A spokesman for the university told a local newspaper that the university “works vigorously” to protect its brand and trademarks. “These assets hold significant value, which benefits our students and faculty and the broader community by supporting our core academic mission of teaching and research,” he said. We at Times Higher Education will be watching the progress of the application closely, for fear that we might have to incinerate the piles of THE-branded clothing that are currently clogging up the office.

Marketing messages for the university places that may be available in clearing naturally ramp up at this time of year as institutions scramble to fill courses in the wake of exam results being published. But the University of Hull appears to have taken its marketing zeal a little far by angering a neighbouring city over the use of messages stencilled on public spaces. Bradford Council said that it could take the institution to court after at least a dozen signs advertising clearing at Hull were spray-painted in public areas of the city, including a listed building, the Telegraph & Argus newspaper reported. Hull said that stencilling was among its marketing activities in “various cities” but had put plans in place to “remove all signage…at our expense”.

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