The week in higher education – 25 November 2021

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

November 25, 2021
Cartoon 25 November 2021
Source: Nick Newman

We’re celebrating a bit of a milestone in this issue – Times Higher Education’s 50th birthday. The title has gone through seven editors in its half-century, but one contributor has remained near constant: Nick Newman, the cartoonist whose work graces this page in every edition. The Spitting Image scriptwriter has been part of the team since the 1980s – a tenure so long that no one is quite sure exactly when it began – and over four decades he has unfailingly made us smile with his Brideshead Revisited teddy bears, drunken students (with or without traffic cones) and his variations on the caption, “Is that a ­­___ or are you just pleased to see me?” At THE, we aim to inform, challenge and amuse – and for the last, much of the credit must go to Nick.


Ask most graduates if they can remember their vice-chancellor from their student days and you’re likely to encounter a blank face, especially if they went to a large institution. But there’s a good chance those leaving Utah-based liberal arts institution Westminster College will not forget their president, especially if they attend one of her workout sessions for staff and students. According to Inside Higher Ed, Bethami Dobkin leads a group of up to a dozen students and staff in a “high-energy” 50-minute cycling exercise class. To teach the class, Dr Dobkin even became a certified group fitness instructor, and each week brings a new playlist for people to listen to while they exercise. It is likely that some students may still leave the college without getting to know the president though, given that the early morning timing may not fit the usual undergraduate schedule.


Since the onset of the pandemic last year, many UK vice-chancellors have waived part of their salary, presumably keen to show that they would share in any financial pressures brought about by the crisis. One such institution head is Michael Arthur, the former president of UCL, who donated 20 per cent of his salary in his final months at the helm to the institution’s student hardship fund. However, it probably helped that Professor Arthur was also paid £25,000 – on top of his usual salary – to delay his retirement due to the Covid crisis. According to UCL’s accounts, he received the “single exceptional payment” in July 2020 after the institution asked him to stay on and help it through the pandemic until Michael Spence took over in January this year. Together with another one-off payment in 2019-20 of almost £25,000 relating to a change in taxable benefit rules, it meant that Professor Arthur’s total remuneration rose 16.5 per cent in his last full year in office, to £472,000.


A president of a US for-profit college has been reinstated three years after he was forced out over alleged sexual misconduct, after he replaced five of the seven board members of the institution, which he owns, The New York Daily News reported. Lawsuits from at least 10 female students and employees at ASA College, which has campuses in New York and Florida, had accused Alex Shchegol of serious sexual misconduct including rape, according to lawsuits seen by the newspaper; these had resulted in out-of-court settlements worth more than $2 million (£1.5 million), according to a letter from the college’s board to the NYC Commission on Human Rights. But he told the Daily News that he was “completely innocent” and had “never harassed anybody”. He reportedly mentioned a letter from a sex addiction therapist affirming that she had worked with him to understand “how he should behave with employees and students”, but hung up when asked if he had had sex with any students.


Durham University has been forced to defend itself after it came under attack for offering training sessions to help students involved in sex work. Universities minister Michelle Donelan even waded in, saying it was “legitimising a dangerous industry which thrives on the exploitation of women”, the BBC reported. However, the institution said that it had launched the guidance sessions as a way of helping students already involved in the sex industry stay safe, following requests from a small number of students. “We are emphatically not seeking to encourage sex work, but we are seeking to provide support to our students,” a university spokesman said.

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