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Jimmy Savile, who was awarded an Honorary Degree by Bedfordshire University in 2009, had it rescinded in 2012 after his death and the subsequent revelations about his activities.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…

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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…

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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.

Jobs in .ac.uk

Some handy data on higher education employment trends

HEFCE has published ‘interactive’ data on the trends in employment of staff in the higher education sector for the ten years, 2003-04 to 2012-13. The data is divided into two main categories: academic roles, such as professors and research assistants and then professional and support roles, including managers and directors. Just over half of the total staff numbers are in the second category.

Looking first at professional staff numbers there has been some growth over the last 10 years although it has dipped from its peak in 2009-10:

prof services numbers

Over the 10 years, professional and support staff numbers have therefore increased by 8 per cent to reach almost 150,000 in 2012-13. In the same period, numbers of academic staff employed at higher education institutions have increased by more than twice that amount: by 20 per cent to reach 125,900 in 2012-13 as the following shows:

Ac staff numbers

There’s more:

For the first time in 2012-13 detailed information on job types is available: higher education institutions in England employ 700 institutional strategic leaders and 1,715 senior managers among academic staff, approximately 3,415 members of staff are in an academic leadership role, 13,855 are employed as professors, and 11,725 are research assistants. Among professional and support staff, approximately 8,070 are managers and directors, 28,365 are employed in professional occupations and 33,585 are non-academic professionals.

Although less precisely, the report notes that:

The English higher education sector has approximately 135 vice-chancellors

I was hoping for a little more certainty on that one.

There are some interesting graphs and charts to look at here but I think ‘interactive’ is overstating the extent of user involvement a little.

Spy kids

GCHQ accredits UK master’s degrees for ‘cyber spies’

Like real spies. Only better educated.

Like real spies. Only better educated.

 

 
Was very much taken by this thrilling news.

Of course we have had Professional Body accreditation for many years and more recently courses supported by Asda and other supermarkets. But this is a little bit different. Not least in the sense that GCHQ is not exactly analagous to an accrediting Professional Body. Or indeed a supermarket.

As BBC News observes this is actually part of a wider government strategy:
 

The degrees form part of the UK’s cyber security strategy published in 2011. The strategy recognised that education was key to improving defences against hackers and online fraud. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said internet cyber security was a “crucial part” of the government’s long-term plan for the British economy. He said the courses would help to make the “UK one of the safest places in the world to do business online”. He said: “Through the excellent work of GCHQ, in partnership with other government departments, the private sector and academia, we are able to counter threats and ensure together we are stronger and more aware. “UK universities were invited to submit their master’s degree courses for certification.The universities now running GCHQ-approved programmes in cyber security are Edinburgh Napier University, Lancaster University, the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway, University of London. GCHQ has also given provisional accreditation to Cranfield University’s cyber defence and information assurance course, and the University of Surrey’s information security course. A spokesman for GCHQ said the universities “were judged to provide well-defined and appropriate content, delivered to the highest standard”.

Of course you don’t actually apply for these courses. If they want you, they will find you.

It also reminded me of this very recent post on a new book by @DavidDuncan64 about a retired agent who becomes a Registrar.

It’s all getting a bit exciting in the world of higher education, isn’t it?

A long list of management principles

Important maxims to live and work by? Or just a long and forgettable list?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a diverting piece on a set of rules the new president of the University of Akron has issued to his senior staff:

If Scott L. Scarborough gets his way, the University of Akron will have the cleanest administration in higher education.Literally.Mr. Scarborough, the Ohio university’s newly minted president, has asked all of his senior administrators to commit to a set of “Leadership and Management Principles” that he says will ensure success. The president’s big no-nos, which are outlined in 28 bullet points, include: Failing to pick up trash. Failing to maintain an orderly and clean work environment. Being late to meetings. Losing one’s cool. The inability to answer a question directly and succinctly.

 

Looking at the first set of success factors it would be hard to describe them as particularly novel or visionary. Here’s a sample:

 

principles
And here’s the list of mistakes:

mistakes

It’s an interesting approach. I suspect though that there are very few memorable ones in here. Apart from the picking up trash one. Which really should not need a reminder.

The Imperfect University: Know Your History

Paul:

Another old one – this from last year

Originally posted on Registrarism:

Know your history.

For my 700th blog post here I thought I would reflect on university histories. Given their nature it’s often struck me as rather surprising that universities and their staff tend not to have a well developed sense of institutional history.

Research matters to universities but they tend not to prioritise maintaining their own records for future researchers. It’s possibly that universities are generally not brilliant at comprehensive record keeping because of their devolved nature and more recently because of the shift from paper to digital but nevertheless there are core records around, for example see Nottingham’s institutional collection. Plus there is enough oral history available from longer established staff to last a lifetime if you ask for it.

Anyway, my contention is that staff at every level of the University need to know more about their institution’s past.

Testing times

To make this point, a while…

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Landmark Post – The Very Best of True Crime on Campus

Paul:

Holiday reading from the archive – it’s some of the best of #TrueCrimeOnCampus

Originally posted on Registrarism:

For the 500th Registrarism Post: The Very Best of True Crime on Campus

Following the utterly objective poll to determine the topic for the landmark 500th Registrarism blog post I’ve used my own skill and judgement to select a range of the very best items from several years of True Crime on Campus. Just a reminder to latecomers though, these are real extracts from University of Nottingham Security reports. Whilst these are the amusing ones (to me at least) our excellent and extremely hard-working Security Team has to deal with a large number of difficult and challenging situations which really aren’t funny for anyone involved. It’s vital work, often unrecognised, and key to the effective functioning of the University and good campus life.

So, here it is, the Ultimate Collection or Now That’s What I Call True Crime on Campus:

21:10 It was reported that a group of Students…

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From 007 to Registrar

A distinctive new approach to the campus novel

Unlikely as it may seem this brief book offers the most exciting representation of a Registrar since Lucky Jim. Set in a real university (York) but with fictional (we hope) characters there is plenty to enjoy here:

The present and past lives of James Kerr, university senior manager and former intelligence officer, collide in this campus-based thriller. He is drawn inexorably into the world of international espionage and geo-politics while simultaneously trying to cope with a home-grown crisis. Set in Beirut, York, London and Brussels, the story draws on the spy-writing tradition of Ian Fleming, John le Carré and Charles Cumming.

It’s good fun, it’s short and dead cheap and the proceeds go to student causes (I am advised by the author) so why not give it a go? You can buy it via the Kindle Store.

I have to say I really did like it but then every Registrar likes to imagine themselves in this kind of role sometimes…

Mobile students

Student mobility in and out of the UK

The British Council has produced this nice graphic on student mobility in and out of the UK:

vis

This new interactive animation shows how the UK as a provider and host of internationally mobile students has evolved over recent years. From 2002 onwards differences in gender, age, level and disciplines studied are displayed for incoming students.The data has been sourced mainly from the Higher Education Statistics Authority and UNESCO Institute for Statistics

It’s fascinating to see the change of patterns of mobility over time and there are several different dimensions to play with. The huge growth in international student recruitment and the shift from European nations to Asia is impressive to watch.