Tooled up campus security

Guns and Grenades for University Security

Earlier this year I posted on the acquisition of an armoured truck by security at Ohio State University. The Chronicle of Higher Education has since discovered that other US universities have also taken advantage of the opportunity to buy surplus army kit including grenade launchers, M-16s, and armoured vehicles:

Should the campus police at the University of Central Florida ever need a modified grenade launcher, one sits waiting in the department’s armory. Retooled to fire tear-gas canisters, the weapon was used several years ago for training purposes, according to Richard Beary, the university’s chief of police. It hasn’t left storage since.At Central Florida, which has an enrollment of nearly 60,000 and a Division I football team, the device was acquired, a police spokeswoman said, for “security and crowd control.” But the university’s police force isn’t the only one to have come upon a grenade launcher. Hinds Community College—located in western Mississippi, with a student population of 11,000—had one too. Campus police officers at Hinds declined to comment. A woman who worked for the department but declined to identify herself said that the launcher had been repurposed to shoot flares but that the college no longer possessed it. Both institutions received their launchers from the same source: the Department of Defense.

Necessary for campus security?

Necessary for campus security?

At least 117 colleges have acquired equipment from the department through a federal program, known as the 1033 program, that transfers military surplus to law-enforcement agencies across the country, according to records The Chronicle received after filing Freedom of Information requests with state governments. Campus police departments have used the program to obtain military equipment as mundane as men’s trousers (Yale University) and as serious as a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle (Ohio State University). Along with the grenade launcher, Central Florida acquired 23 M-16 assault rifles from the Department of Defense.

This just seems extraordinary. The full table of purchases can be found here and, whilst it does include some fairly mundane items, you have to ask what on earth campus security services think they are going to need all this kit for. What kind of student protests are going to require guns and grenade launchers to keep crowds under control?

New 2014/15 QS World University Rankings

The latest QS world league table is out

Full details of the rankings can be found at the QS website. A summary of the world top 10 follows where we find MIT retaining the top spot for a third consecutive year but really not a lot to grab the headlines here:

Global top ten

1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Last year: 1)

2= University of Cambridge (3)

2= Imperial College London (5)

4 Harvard University (2)

5= University of Oxford (6)

5 = University College London (4)

7 Stanford University (7)

8 California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (10=)

9 Princeton University (10=)

10  Yale University (8)

Not a huge change then with Chicago the only mover out of the top 10. However, four out of the top six universities are from the UK which must be something of a surprise.

 

Top UK universities

Again, little movement for the UK universities within the top 100 although there is one new entry with QMUL becoming the 19th UK university to make it into the top 100.

2= University of Cambridge (3)

2= Imperial College London (5)

5= University of Oxford (6)

5= UCL (4)

16  King’s College London (19=)

17= University of Edinburgh (17=)

29 University of Bristol (30)

30 The University of Manchester (33)

55 University of Glasgow (51)

61 The University of Warwick (64)

64 University of Birmingham (62)

69 The University of Sheffield (71=)

71 LSE (68)

77 The University of Nottingham (75=)

88 University of St Andrews (83)

92 Durham University (90)

94 University of Southampton (86=)

97 University of Leeds (97=)

98 Queen Mary University of London (115)

So, interesting but perhaps helpfully unexciting in terms of radical change.

Excess Baggage

Luxury Transport for Students

Just land it in the quad

Just land it in the quad

Lots of coverage in the media for this new service offering Luxury Transport for Students. New students are urged to become VIFs – or Very Important Freshers – and take advantage of these new ways of getting to university:

We are stepping up the game, we are changing the way students travel to University and from September we will be offering the UKs first luxury student transport service.Freshers now have the option to travel to their first day on campus by luxurious and bespoke transport options, through the new ‘Very Important Fresher’ service.Transport options for Freshers to choose from include: a private jet or helicopter, Rolls Royce Phantom, a Mclaren P1, a Ferrari F430 and many others. All with the aim of providing an action-packed James Bond style expedition across the country, to arrive in style and make an entrance enviable of movie stars and premiership football players. Uni Baggage will also transport the students belongings separately so they have everything they need to start University.

It does seem like excellent publicity for a company which is aiming to sell its more mundane transport services to students. Will anyone take advantage of these VIF opportunities? Not many I suspect as none of this seems like a good way to make new friends in freshers’ week.

I’m tempted to book the horse and carriage…

Dialogue through technology

Dorm Room Diplomacy

 

Intrigued to learn about the activities of an organisation called Dorm Room Diplomacy which gets groups of students together from around the world, via videoconferencing, to engage in dialogue aimed at promoting greater international understanding:

croppedimage960300-DRD-Red-Group-Communities-Map

Founded by students at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, Dorm Room Diplomacy fosters intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding among an international group of university students. Dorm Room Diplomacy employs videoconference technology to facilitate virtual exchanges that help students to see the individuals behind reductionist cultural stereotypes.The videoconference program occurs each academic semester, and the same set of 8 students join in a virtual dialogue with a trained facilitator each week. Dorm Room Diplomacy is entirely student-run, encouraging students to take ownership over the dialogue process, establish campus chapters, and empower themselves and their peers. As a non-partisan organization, Dorm Room Diplomacy does not engage in political activities or advocacy, other than the promotion of intercultural dialogue.

Whilst the number of institutions involved is modest nevertheless it does seem like a valuable initiative. There are many other ways to engage in such dialogue both on campus and through international exchanges but this looks like a useful additional option.

Will Dorm Room Diplomacy take off? Time will tell.

True Crime on Campus §37: long hot summer

Even More True Crime on Campus

It may be summer but our always vigilant Security staff are still on duty to ensure that every unlikely situation is dealt with:

08:05 Security reported an altercation between a driver and a cyclist at the end of the road leading up to the West Entrance Gatehouse on University Park Campus. Security witnessed the driver of the vehicle give the cyclist a hard push, knocking the cyclist off his feet. The Security Officer at the Gatehouse then witnessed both parties coming to an agreement as they shook hands. The cyclist rode off from Campus and the driver came onto the Campus. Details of the vehicle registration were noted.

1526 Report of a person sleeping in Pope Building. Security attended and woke the person up. On speaking to the person they confirmed that they were a student and were tired.

10:45 Security received a complaint from the driver of the Jubilee Hopper bus to advise that the line painters had refused to move from the bus layby on Spine Road. The painting contractors advised that the bus driver hadn’t asked them to move and they couldn’t just stop working due to the equipment that they were using. The bus driver went up the kerb on an alternative route.

1030 Report of youths at the rear of the ETB throwing stones. Security attended – the area was checked the youths could not be located.

1125 Report that a Bus had struck one of the bridges connecting the L buildings with Coates Building. Security attended. The bridge was checked and found to be undamaged.

Fortunately, this didn't happen on this occasion

Fortunately, this didn’t happen on this occasion

0815, 1240 Report that a new wooden bench was on fire in Diamond Wood Sutton Bonington. Security attended and put the fire out. There are signs that the area had been used as a camp site the previous evening.

00:10 Security received a report from a resident at Hugh Stewart Hall that stones were being thrown at the windows. Security attended Hugh Stewart Hall and found two youths crouching near the windows facing the Main Visitor’s car park. No damage to windows recorded. Both youths informed Security that they were from the Summer School and staying at Lincoln Hall. Security escorted the youths back to Lincoln Hall and informed the Summer School Tutors of what had happened. Security to follow up.

00:10 Security discovered two green directional signs one “West Entrance” and the other “Trent Building” in the bushes at Hugh Stewart Hall. These signs were located in the same place as the youths throwing stones at the windows. Security to follow up and Helpdesk informed.

14:20 Security attended the Aspire building on Triumph Road Jubilee Campus after a report that a group of children were breaking the lights which illuminated the Aspire. On arrival it was confirmed that the light which is set into the ground had been broken. A group of teenagers were near the broken light and all denied being involved with the incident. Security have spoken to a witness of the incident and were informed that the male responsible for the damage had left the scene. Helpdesk informed. Police updated. Security to follow up.

1010 Report of a fault with a Kitchen extractor fan in Derby Hall Kitchens. Lilley’s called out. They stated that they would not attend as this is specialist equipment. The Estates Help Desk to be informed.

1531 Report of a male sawing the lock off a Pedal Cycle adjacent to Hallward Library. Uniformed and Covert Security Officers attended the male was stopped and spoken to. The male, a Student, had in fact been using a pump to blow up his tyres and not, as had been reported, sawing the lock off.

sign-44157_640

0250 Report that a deer had been seen on Beeston Lane. Security attended, the area was checked but the animal could not be located. Police were informed in case of traffic issues.

1740 Report of Conference Delegates at Jubilee Campus causing a nuisance to a Resident on Horston Drive. Security attended and caught a group of delegates from the Italian children’s conference causing a nuisance. Officers contacted the conference organiser who dealt with the children concerned.

1715 Report that a hot water tap would not turn off in the Play Centre. Security attended and turned off the water to the tap. Estates Help Desk to be informed.

2348 Report of mini insects in a room in Hall. The resident asked for Security to attend. On arrival Officers suggested that the student close the window.

Very good at hiding

Very good at hiding

2215 Report of a pigeon hiding behind a sofa in the Amenities Building Jubilee Campus. Security attended and the pigeon was removed from the Building.

And finally, one in which I have to declare a personal interest. Following an exciting weekend of den-building, my youngest daughter decided to involve her friends at the University play scheme in similar activity. Unfortunately, the results were misinterpreted:

19:00 Security reported 4 shelters that have been built using branches from a fallen tree in the wooded area at the front of Lenton Fields. It does not appear that the shelters have been used for anybody to sleep in. Security checked the area overnight. Helpdesk informed to make Grounds staff aware.

Amazon on campus

Amazon sets up shop at Purdue

purduelogo

 

According to @insidehighered Purdue University is to become the next “Amazon Campus”, which will allow access to Amazon offered products through the Purdue Student Store.

 

Coming to a campus near you

Coming to a campus near you

Beyond Amazon’s impact on campus bookstores’ bottom lines, the company’s presence in higher education has mostly been felt in the post office, as students opt to order rental or used books online. With the expansion of its Amazon Campus program, the company is aiming for more visibility on college campuses.The co-branded program at Purdue is the second of its kind. The University of California at Davis announced a pilot with Amazon last November, and the company has expansion plans in the works, a spokeswoman said in an email.In addition to offering priority shipping options, Amazon will staff locations on campus where students can pick up their orders and drop off rented textbooks when they are due.
ucdavis_logo
UC-Davis, in comparison, uses Amazon’s bright yellow automated lockers. Both benefits are expected to roll out during the next year at Purdue, according to a press release. As part of its deal with Amazon, UC-Davis collects “a little more than 2 percent of most purchases” from the university-branded store. In the first two academic quarters since the launch of the pilot, the partnership has netted the university $139,000, much of which has gone toward funding short-term financial aid and textbook scholarships.

So it sounds like it might be a pretty good deal for universities and for their students. And it might ensure that campus bookshops, which have slowly been disappearing, might have a future after all. But it also means of course that Amazon’s dominance will continue to grow. Presumably they could also extend into wider provision of goods and services to universities from laboratory supplies to stationery. So is the future Amazon for everything?

Archers Academics

Beyond @LegoAcademics

Inspired by the novelty of Lego Academics and by the chance meeting (by my wife) of an Archers namesake at a conference I wondered how many Archers characters also had academic counterparts. (For those not familiar with the world’s longest running radio soap opera see the Wikipedia page which helpfully summarises the plot and background to this everyday story of country folk.) Anyway there are quite a few #ArchersAcademics it seems:

First up is Linda Snell, MD, MHPE, FRCPC, FACP: Linda Snell is a Professor of Medicine and Core Faculty member of the Centre for Medical Education, McGill University.

Brian Aldridge (not the academic version)

Brian Aldridge (not the academic version)

Almost appropriately Brian Aldridge is Clinical Professor, Veterinary Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Jill Archer can be found in the Social Work department at Lakehead University in Canada.

There are quite a few Roy Tuckers out there but one, quite appropriately, is to be found at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and gets some decent scores on Rate My Professors. Choice comment from a student: “This teacher is cool. He loves his wife to death & you will hear about his sex life often.” A bit less of that kind of thing in the current storyline might be welcomed by some Archers listeners.

Alistair Lloyd AO RFD ED is a distinguished alumnus of Monash University. Mr Lloyd (PhC 1956) joined the Victorian College of Pharmacy Foundation when it was founded in 2001 and has since served as Foundation Chairman.

David Archer (Not the  Ambridge one)

David Archer (Not the Ambridge one)

Closer to home, Neil Carter is based in the Department of Politics at the University of York.

And perhaps most excitingly close to the image one might have of the ever-happy badger-loving farmer, David Archer is Professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago.

So, that’s my first attempt. Are there any other academic Archers namesakes out there?

#ArchersAcademics

Can we have our Honorary Degree back please?

Honorary Degree revocation is pretty unusual

Previous posts have commented on the awards of Honorary Degrees to celebrities. The risk for universities in making such awards though is that famous people sometimes turn out to be not such terrific assets to the institution’s reputation. There are only a few examples of this but they are pretty striking.

The most significant was arguably the decision by the University of Edinburgh in 2007 to remove the degree awarded to Robert Mugabe. As the Observer reported at the time:

Edinburgh University will tomorrow revoke an honorary degree awarded to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. The degree was awarded in 1984 for Mugabe’s services to education in Africa. He has since been blamed for Zimbabwe’s failing economy and accused of running an oppressive regime.

The decision to revoke the degree is the first in the history of the academic institution and follows years of campaigning by politicians and students, concerned about Mugabe’s human rights record.

Although Mugabe never replied, the government of Zimbabwe said the decision to revoke the honorary degree was a ‘humiliation’ for Edinburgh University and branded the institution ‘a disgrace’ and its students ‘uninformed’.

robert-mugabe-03The University of Massachusetts Amherst also withdrew its award to Mugabe (although some years later than Edinburgh).

Interestingly Edinburgh has instituted a specific withdrawal procedure to cope with this very eventuality:

Principles underpinning the procedure
In recognition of the need to guard against (a) a proliferation of proposals for withdrawal and (b) an honorary graduate falling foul of populist thinking the following principles underpin the procedure:
• Any review of an Honorary Degree can only be considered on receipt of substantial new information which, for good reason, was not available previously.
• The situation and values of the time of award conferment remain the relevant considerations.
• Non application posthumously.

 

Jimmy Savile, who was awarded an Honorary Degree by Bedfordshire University in 2009, had it rescinded in 2012 after his death and the subsequent revelations about his activities. (Note that this would not have been possible under the Edinburgh procedure…)

 

savile

Fred Goodwin, former CEO of RBS, who had his knighthood revoked also faced calls for the withdrawal of the Honorary Degree awarded by St Andrews University. But this appears, despite a campaign by students back in 2012, to have been resisted by the University.

Less fortunate than Goodwin is Constance Briscoe who, on top of other humiliations, found herself having her honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton revoked. As reported in the Express & Star:

Disgraced judge Constance Briscoe has been stripped of her honorary degree by the University of Wolverhampton.

It comes just days after she was removed from the judiciary after being jailed for her part in the speeding points scandal that saw former Liberal Democrat minister Chris Huhne and his estranged wife sent to prison. The university confirmed it was considering stripping Briscoe of the award in May and has now revealed it did go ahead with the removal. Professor Ann Holmes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “The University of Wolverhampton’s nominations committee has revoked Constance Briscoe’s honorary award, as we take the award of honorary degrees very seriously.”

And then we have the case of Brandeis University which, according to the Guardian,  decided to withdraw an Honorary before it had even conferred it:

A university has reversed a decision to grant an honorary degree to an advocate for Muslim women who has made comments critical of Islam.

Brandeis University said in a statement that Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali would no longer receive the honorary degree, which it had planned to award her at the May 18 commencement.

Possibly a first.

Of course the lesson here for universities is to be very careful about the selection of Honorary Degree recipients. Easier said than done though. Although you could always introduce a new procedure to facilitate withdrawal when required.

New Sino-Foreign Fun

US and Russian universities in new Sino-Foreign ventures

Exciting news from Asia as not one but two universities announce new Sino-Foreign higher education institutions.

The new institute will hopefully be built on foundations other than sand

First up is the University of Pittsburgh which has recently held a groundbreaking for the new Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute:

Officials from the University of Pittsburgh and Sichuan University in China participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on July 2 at the Sichuan University campus in Chengdu to launch construction of a 100,000-square-foot building that will house the Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute, a joint engineering institute to educate undergraduate students and foster collaborative research. The partnership between Pitt and Sichuan University was established in 2013. Pitt is one of only five U.S. universities to have entered into a large-scale partnership agreement with a Chinese university; the others are Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, New York University, and the University of Michigan. Sichuan University is the premier university in western China, located in Chengdu within the Sichuan Province, and it is consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in China. With emphases on advanced sustainable manufacturing and educational innovation, the institute will initially offer three undergraduate degree programs: industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, and materials science and engineering. Students in the institute will be recruited from the United States, China, and possibly other countries, with the first class in fall 2015 expected to comprise 100 students. Enrollment is projected to grow to a final total of 1,600.

Not entirely clear why they only mention US partnerships in China and omit the first such venture, ie the University of Nottingham Ningbo China but it is interesting to note that the ultimate target enrolment is a pretty modest 1,600 students. And you’ve got to love the ground-breaking pic.

Then we have Moscow State University which is to create a joint university in Shenzhen free economic zone.

msu

A real building

Russia’s top university will open a branch in China, in the country’s rapidly developing Shenzhen free economic zone. The building will bring an iconic element of Moscow’s skyline to China.

On Monday, representatives of Lomonosov Moscow State University MSU, Beijing Institute of Technology and the local administration signed an agreement to create a joint university in Shenzhen.

The project is aimed at training skilled professionals in China using MSU’s advanced educational programs and standards.

Those behind the project believe graduates of the new university will be in demand not only in Russia and China, but everywhere around the world.

The construction of the university facilities, the campus and the operations of the academy will be funded from the Shenzhen budget.

It’ll be in an area with “excellent infrastructure and environment,” previously used to host the 2011 Summer Universiade, the project’s press-release said.

The numbers aren’t clear but the map of the projected campus looks pretty large. And if they do build a replica of that iconic MSU building then it should be an impressive development.

 

Urgent: save those emails

Do we need to preserve Vice-Chancellors’ emails?

A diverting essay in Inside Higher Ed has a call for the preservation of presidential email:
256px-Email_Shiny_Icon.svg

…boards of trustees should act – with a sense of urgency. They might begin by appointing a task force, composed of professional historians, lawyers, board members, and administrators, to recommend procedures for an independent review of the correspondence of presidents and provosts. Although a mandate that all communications should reside in library archives might have a chilling effect on email exchanges and boost the telephone bills of academic leaders, it should be considered as well. Equally important, boards of trustees should set aside funds for the review – and for cataloging presidential and provostial papers having just completed a history of Cornell from 1940 to the present, co-authored with my colleague Isaac Kramnick, I can attest to the massive challenges posed by uncataloged collections, which contain millions of documents.

In addition to making possible more accurate institutional histories, complete and accessible presidential “papers” might well help sitting presidents facing tough decisions, by allowing them to understand what their predecessors considered, said and did in similar situations.

So should universities do this? And is it really as urgent as this essay suggests? I don’t think so. There is a strong case to be made for better records retention in universities but to focus exclusively on vice-chancellors’ or presidents’ emails would seem to me to be too narrow a take. And surely they get as much nonsense and spam as everyone else?

Top new university ranking: 50 under 50 degrees north

Paul:

Another post from the archives – silly #ranking time

Originally posted on Registrarism:

An exciting new league table!

Both QS and THE have, rather unimaginatively, produced rankings of universities under 50 years old. More exciting alternative rankings here have offered the highly creative 20 over 500 and 30 under six but this new not at all arbitrary league table draws not on age but on the inescapable facts of geography to sort the best from the rest. It’s 50 under 50 degrees north!

The new latitude-led league table has been slammed as outrageous by northern Europeans in particular and described by UK universities as a stitch up by the US and central and southern Europeans. Those south of the equator have been similarly appalled.

“We’re all used to US dominance but this is ridiculous” said an Australian Vice-Chancellor who, remarkably, did not wish to be named.

There are some extraordinary results and ETH is the only non North American university in Top 20. There…

View original 289 more words

Students behaving badly

Paul:

One from the archives

Originally posted on Registrarism:

Crimes and misdemeanours at university

I was greatly taken by this list of fineable offences for 18th-century students at Harvard:

Offense #19, “Cutting off the lead,” seems to refer to the lead on the college building’s roof. Lead was once used for roofing material (especially for more expensively-constructed buildings), and such buildings suffered from the depradations of thieves who would steal the lead and sell it. It’s unclear, in this case, whether the students were cutting off lead for profit or for simple mischief.

Students have always behaved badly. Not all of them and not all of the time but universities have often felt the need to seek to constrain the worst excesses and this list from Harvard is typical although clearly very much of its time. (See also True Crime on Campus…)

A previous post here looked at regulations in Oxford and Uzbekistan, in the 16th Century and more…

View original 502 more words

2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities: Top 20 and UK placings

2014 ARWU University World Rankings: Top 20 and UK placings

It feels like a strange time to publish a world ranking but ideal holiday reading for many.

Anyway, as in previous years there is not a huge amount to get excited about as this is a league table where little changes. The full rankings have been published and are now available at the ARWU website

As in many previous years there are really very few surprises and almost no movement in the top 20 with Harvard retaining the number 1 spot for the eighth successive year and everyone else just about unchanged too although MIT and Berkeley swap places inside the top 5. Overall there is very little movement in top 20 apart from the new entry of UCL in 20th place.

World
Rank
Institution* Country
/Region
National
Rank
Total
Score
Score onAlumni
Award
HiCi
N&S
PUB
PCP
1 Harvard University
1
100
100
2 Stanford University
2
72.1
41.8
3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
3
70.5
68.4
4 University of California-Berkeley
4
70.1
66.8
5 University of Cambridge
1
69.2
79.1
6 Princeton University
5
60.7
52.1
7 California Institute of Technology
6
60.5
48.5
8 Columbia University
7
59.6
65.1
9 University of Chicago
8
57.4
61.4
9 University of Oxford
2
57.4
51
11 Yale University
9
55.2
48.8
12 University of California, Los Angeles
10
51.9
30.2
13 Cornell University
11
50.6
37.6
14 University of California, San Diego
12
49.3
19.7
15 University of Washington
13
48.1
21.7
16 University of Pennsylvania
14
47.1
32.4
17 The Johns Hopkins University
15
47
38.7
18 University of California, San Francisco
16
45.2
0
19 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
1
43.9
30.2
20 University College London
3
43.3
28.8

 

In terms of the UK placings, the only substantive changes are that Bristol and King’s swap places and Nottingham drops out of Top 100. Given the general stability of the table it is not entirely clear why this has happened.

World Rank
1
University of Cambridge 5
2
University of Oxford 9
3
University College London 20
4
The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine 22
5
The University of Manchester 38
6
The University of Edinburgh 45
7
King’s College London 59
8
University of Bristol 63
9-17
Cardiff University 101-150
9-17
London School of Economics and Political Science 101-150
9-17
The University of Glasgow 101-150
9-17
The University of Sheffield 101-150
9-17
University of Birmingham 101-150
9-17
University of Leeds 101-150
9-17
University of Liverpool 101-150
9-17
University of Nottingham 101-150
9-17
University of Southampton 101-150
18-20
University of East Anglia 151-200
18-20
University of Sussex 151-200
18-20
University of Warwick 151-200

Anyway, much summer fun to be had analysing this data.

More on Beyoncé and Ghostbusting courses

The Telegraph seems to have a bit of a thing about courses featuring popular music and musicians. Especialy Beyoncé.
beyepic

Recently they published this story about Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus studies being offered at US colleges:

It will focus on the growth of the star’s media empire, with an emphasis on her roles as a “black icon” and sex symbol while managing a successful marriage, to rapper Jay-Z, and motherhood.As part of the programme, students will tackle literature by black, feminist writers such as bell hooks and the abolitionist Sojourner Truth.Also this week, Skidmore College, a liberal arts institution in Saratoga Springs, upstate New York, will offer a course on “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus,” focusing on the former child star turned pop temptress.

I posted here about this at the beginning of 2012 and made reference to a number of other seemingly bonkers courses too:

A post last year summarised the latest position in the provision of bonkers degrees and earlier items covered similar ground including a zombie course at the University of Baltimore and a course covering Lady Gaga. Also we previously looked here at the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies as well as offering a podcast on “bonkers or niche” degrees. Most recently there was, shockingly, an MA in horror and transgression at Derby.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has another piece on Beyoncé studies etc (described as ‘nonsense’ courses) which also includes this one featuring the paranormal:

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters_logoCoventry University apparently. Psychology lecturer Tony Lawrence set up a Psychology of Exceptional Human Experiences course to teach students how to chase poltergeists, talk to the dead and understand telepathy.

All useful skills indeed, and students have the added bonus of being able to re-watch Ghostbusters films as part of their curriculum.

And, to prove that none of this is actually nonsense, the Telegraph also refers to a Robin Hood themed offering at the University of Nottingham.

The new University of Life

Some people are just too smart for university

uncollege

Must admit to being immensely irritated at the so-called ‘UnCollege’ proposition> And, having seen Dale speak recently at Going Global my annoyance has not decreased. This seems to be the story of UnCollege:

 

Dale was unschooled for grades six through twelve and enrolled at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas following “high school.” He was frustrated with some aspects of his college experience and spent much of his first semester thinking and writing about what could be done to address his concerns.

Over winter break, Dale talked with Rebecca Goldman, a fellow unschooler who left Dartmouth College, about his frustrations with higher education. They found that they had precisely the same frustrations about college, even though they had attended different institutions.

After pondering this conversation, Dale came to the conclusion that their frustrations with higher education stemmed not from the specific institutions they had attended, but rather from their common experience: unschooling. They threw around some ideas via email, and Rebecca suggested, “we should just start our own college, à la the movie Accepted.

”Dale decided that as a former unschooler, he could make Rebecca’s unschooler college a reality.

Dale launched UnCollege.org on January 21st, 2011.

I’d never heard of the movie Accepted. This from IMDb

It really is this easy.

It really is this easy.

Bartleby (B.) Gaines is a fun loving slacker who, unfortunately, gets turned down for every college he applied for, much to the chagrin of his overly expectant parents. So, with a little cutting and pasting, he creates the South Harmon Institute of Technology, and lo and behold, he is accepted (along with his friends Rory, Hands, and Glen, whose college plans were also all but dashed). However, his parents want to see the website, the campus, and the dean. So now he has his other friend Sherman (who has been accepted to the prestigious Harmon College) build a web page, they lease out an abandoned psychiatric hospital, and they hire Sherman’s uncle Ben to be the dean. Problem solved? Not quite. The web page was done so well, that hundreds of students show up at the front door, all of which were turned down by other colleges. Faced with no choice, Bartleby decides to proceed with turning South Harmon into a real college, and sets about figuring out what to teach and how to teach it. …

Sounds terrific. No wonder everyone thinks it’s really easy to set up a university.

I’m really not that concerned about entrepreneurial individuals setting up new organisations to challenge traditional universities. I’ve go no problem with that kind of competition. However, the casual dismissal of all formal education as somehow bogus and irrelevant which underpins this particular development I do take issue with. It’s just all too easy.