Knowing Your History

Know your history.

Given the current running of The Changing University: Inside Nottingham NOOC 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 ago I imposed a quiz on some of my colleagues about the University as it was 60 years previously. The questions included the following (and I’ve added the answers here to avoid any distress):

  • In 1950, on 11 July, we had “degree day”. How many ceremonies did we have in July this year in the UK? (Answer – 16 in the summer – but note there were more ceremonies at the Malaysia and China campuses as well as winter ceremonies)
  • How many Senate meetings were there in 1949-50? (There were seven. We now have three per annum.)
  • How many Council meetings? (There were nine. We now have six a year.)
  • In 1949-50, Council had how many members? (37. We now have 25.)
  • Senate membership? (A mere 35 members. We now have over 100.)
  • Fee for a full-time BA? (It was £31,10s, equivalent in 2013 would be £943.06.)
  • Resit fee? (10/6)

Not surprisingly they didn’t do terribly well. Even though these were the easy questions.

A new history

Recently, the University commissioned a new history primarily to cover last the 20 years or so of institutional activity and capture some of the most major changes at Nottingham, including in particular the establishment of the international campuses in Malaysia and China. We were also keen to ensure we recorded a lot of learning and information in a more comprehensive archive than would be publishable (also recognising that the pace of change and move from hard copy to electronic has made record keeping more problematic) but which would be a valuable resource for future historians.

The previous history (in two large volumes) by Dr B H Tolley covered mainly the period 1948, the year the institution received its Royal Charter, through to 1988, with plenty of material too from the earlier period of the operation of University College Nottingham since its inception in 1881.

The last history. Not very portable.

The last history. Not very portable.

Whilst Tolley’s magnum opus offered comprehensiveness it lacked a certain degree of readability. I believe there are still copies available through Amazon (although not at bargain prices).

Beyond this though there are other accounts of the University of Nottingham, its Vice-Chancellors and the estate. A previous post commented on the souvenir brochure from this event which included more details of the Trent Building design.

More books

More books

My favourite is the 1928 book (unnamed) which dates from the opening of Trent Building by King George V. A brief silent film records the event:

Nottingham’s New University

Jesse Boot, in his foreword to this 1928 publication, commented:

At the moment of the opening by His Majesty the King, when the stones of the coming University are still unweathered by time, it is difficult to appreciate the full significance of this educational development. Thousands of students yet unborn will pass along the corridors and learn in the lecture rooms, and wrest the secrets from nature in the laboratories. Their work will link still more closely industry with science, add to the honour of the City and help to increase the well-being of our nation.

The significance of this is that there is a common thread running from Boot’s original vision for the new University College through the Royal Charter to the current strategy of the University.

More landmarks

There are other important milestones in the University’s history. For example, knowing that Gandhi spoke to a packed Great Hall back in 1931 gives additional depth to our international strategy.

A good turnout

A good turnout

The visit of Einstein who, as this video recounts, delivered a spectacularly unsuccessful lecture to a mixed audience of Germanists who understood no physics and physicists who knew no German (but he did leave some interesting formulae on a blackboard):

Remembering that students campaigned very hard to secure Senate representation over a number of years in the late 1960s and that in 1968 John Dunford, President-elect of the Students’ Union (and recently awarded an Honorary Degree by the University), was the first student to address the Senate.

And of course the cultural landmark that was the first public performance by Paul McCartney and Wings back in 1972.

All of these provide context and a reminder that the success any institution enjoys today is built on the hard work, commitment and brilliance of previous generations of academics and professional services staff. It is clear from the 1928 book referring to the very early days of the University College that there were many challenges during its development:

It must not, however, be thought that the road was smooth, for the obstacles were many. Many of the prosperous bourgeois of the city were inclined to scorn the College because it appeared too democratic, while others openly scoffed at spending money on such subjects as Classics or Philosophy. But it met local needs, and students who were not confined to any special class came from the whole district.

…at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Treasury Inspectors, who had to visit the College to see whether it was entitled to a Government grant wrote that: “We think that the College exhibits the nearest approach of all Colleges which we have visited to a People’s University.”

Decisions taken by staff at all levels of our universities today are not context free. We can all learn from what went before so that we build on our history and are not trapped by it. But we do have to know it first.

Legacy

As importantly is the knowledge that part of all our jobs is about stewardship – about ensuring that the generations of students and staff who follow us are able to achieve even more by building on what we leave behind. As Alderman E Huntsman, Mayor of the City of Nottingham and Chair of the Council of Nottingham University College, noted (again in the 1928 book):

We of today owe more than we can express to our forefathers…The Council and Senate of the University College are not unmindful of their responsibilities, and assure all those into whose hands this book may pass, that they are resolved that the great ideals of Sir Jesse for a University with the complete right of self-government, and the power to shape its courses to meet the special needs of local industries and conditions, shall be accomplished to the full. The gifts recorded in this book and offered to the People’s University will assuredly bear fruit for all time.

Anyway, I’m now really excited by the prospect of the publication next year of a new history of the University of Nottingham. It’s being prepared by very wonderful and diligent Professor John Beckett of the School of Humanities and will bring things up to date as well covering some of the earlier history in outline. It will I hope also have the advantage of being highly readable, and including much more material about students and the student experience (largely neglected in previous publications) and, rather marvellously, will have pictures too.

The Trent Building

The Trent Building

But let’s leave the last word to Jesse Boot who in the 1928 book in commenting on the future history of University College Nottingham says that the final chapter is as yet unwritten but

will tell in due season how the University College won its Charter, and thus Nottingham became the seat of a great people’s University, which in each succeeding age will spread the light of learning and knowledge, and will bind science and industry in the unity that is so essential for the prosperity of the nation and the welfare of our fellow citizens.

Powerful stuff.

So, know your history.

New Global Universities Ranking: Shock Results

US dominates new global ranking

Exciting news that US News is producing a new global universities ranking. In an extraordinary related development another league table, the “World Series Ranking”, seeks to trump this and has published a top 20 which bears a remarkable similarity to the US national top 20:

1 Princeton University

2 Harvard University

3 Yale University

4 Columbia University

5 Stanford University

6 University of Chicago

7 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

8 Duke University

mortar boards

9 University of Pennsylvania

10 California Institute of Technology

11 Dartmouth College

12 Johns Hopkins University

13 Northwestern University

14 Washington University, St Louis

15 Cornell University

16Tie Brown University

17 University of Notre Dame

18 Vanderbilt University

19 Rice University

20 University of California Berkeley

1614Not only are there no UK or other European universities in the top 20, the top 200 universities comprises exclusively US institutions. A spokesperson for the rankings commented that this was “completely different” from the baseball World Series and the fact that every university in the ranking was from the USA merely demonstrated the robustness of the methodology and was in no way connected to yet another drubbing of the US by Europe in the Ryder Cup.

Spokespeople from THE, QS and ARWU were all speechless.

Ghana gets tough on Honoraries

In Ghana, the Accreditation Board is “mad” at honorary degree awards

Ghana News reports that the country’s Accreditation Board is “mad” at honorary degree awards by unqualified institutions:

The conferment of honorary degrees is the prerogative of degree awarding institutions so mandated. Therefore accredited private tertiary institutions operating under the mentorship of chartered, degree-awarding universities are not qualified by themselves to confer honorary degrees. Any such institutions that do so are in contravention of Regulation 19 1 of Legislative Instrument 1984 which states that: An accredited institution shall not issue certificates or award its own degrees, diplomas or honorary degree without a Charter grated to it for that purpose by the President.

National_Accreditation_Board,_Ghana_(NAB)_logoThere are also instances where some foreign institutions confer such honorary degrees, particularly doctorate degrees on prominent personalities with intent to legitimize and popularize the operations of the institutions in Ghana, and thereby seek to attract unsuspecting students to enroll in them. The national Accreditation Board wishes to caution the general public and advise that distinguished personalities invited for such awards should verify the accreditation status and degree-awarding powers of the institutions that seek accreditation status and degree-awarding powers of the institutions that seek to confer on them honorary degrees to avoid any embarrassing fallouts.

I posed here recently about a spate of Honorary Degree revocations but the concern in Ghana seems to be more about unaccredited institutions securing undeserved credibility by inviting the great and the good to accept an Honorary.

Ghana Web’s editorial takes an even stronger position:

The quest for the enhancement of mankind’s creature comforts has driven many to crazy heights such as preceding their names with high flaunting titles. The number of those ad hoc institutions and individuals ready to assist them achieve these objectives, their quality notwithstanding, has increased exponentially.

Exploiting our penchant for such high flaunting appellations, which these institutions hardly heard of in their own countries, have constantly bestowed the useless and worthless titles to people who can pay for the service directly and indirectly.

It is lamentable that the near-fraudulent practice has gone on almost indefinitely, until recently when the National Accreditation Board (NAB) woke up from a worrying Rip Van Winkle slumber to read the riot act about the dubious conferment.

 

And as Ghana Soccernet reported:

Ex-Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah found his honorary degree wasn't worth much after all

Ex-Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah found his honorary degree wasn’t worth much after all

The National Accreditation Board has discredited the honorary doctorate degree conferred on ex-Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah by the Day Spring Christian University of Mississippi. But the board says the university alongside three others- Pan African Clergy Council and Bible College, Global Centre for Transformational Leadership and the World Council for Evangelical Clergy- is uncertified to honour prominent individuals.

So, bad news for Kwesi and others who have picked up awards from unaccredited universities. In the UK though, it doesn’t seem terribly likely that iffy institutions not on the HEFCE list of registered providers will be looking to draw attention to themselves in this way. And no-one could accuse UK agencies of a ‘Rip Van Winkle slumber’.

THE World University Rankings 2014-15

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings are out

The waiting is over and the final ranking of the season is now available from THE.

All the details of the methodology and regional and subject variations are available on the THE rankings site. The claim is that they are “the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments”. In addition they “employ 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available”.

Must be good then. Interestingly, the main theme in the commentary seems to be stability:

Overall, this year’s rankings are characterised by their stability, especially towards the top of the table: no university in the top 20, for example, has moved by more than two places. The California Institute of Technology remains number one (the fourth year in a row it has worn the crown), with Harvard University in second place.

As was the case last year, the top 10 includes seven US universities. The other three places are occupied by UK institutions: the University of Oxford moves from joint second last year to third, while its ancient rival, the University of Cambridge, rises two places to fifth. Imperial College London moves up one place to joint ninth.

Perhaps the most striking development at the summit is the fact that Yale University makes the top 10 for the first time under the current methodology. The Ivy League stalwart pushes the University of Chicago into 11th position.

So, this means there really isn’t a lot of movement:

 The world top 20 is as follows:

 

1 California Institute of Technology (Caltech) United States
2 Harvard University United States
3 University of Oxford United Kingdom
4 Stanford University United States
5 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
6 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) United States
7 Princeton University United States
8 University of California, Berkeley United States
9 Imperial College London United Kingdom
9 Yale University United States
11 University of Chicago United States
12 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) United States
13 ETH Zürich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich Switzerland
14 Columbia University United States
15 Johns Hopkins University United States
16 University of Pennsylvania United States
17 University of Michigan United States
18 Duke University United States
19 Cornell University United States
20 University of Toronto Canada

the-wur-logo-world-rankings

And the UK rankings:

3 University of Oxford United Kingdom
5 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
9 Imperial College London United Kingdom
22 University College London United Kingdom
34 London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) United Kingdom
36 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
40 King’s College London United Kingdom
52 University of Manchester United Kingdom
74 University of Bristol United Kingdom
83 Durham University United Kingdom
94 University of Glasgow United Kingdom
103 University of Warwick United Kingdom
107 Queen Mary University of London United Kingdom
111 University of St Andrews United Kingdom
111 University of Sussex United Kingdom
113 University of York United Kingdom
118 Royal Holloway, University of London United Kingdom
121 University of Sheffield United Kingdom
131 Lancaster University United Kingdom
132 University of Southampton United Kingdom
146 University of Leeds United Kingdom
148 University of Birmingham United Kingdom
154 University of Exeter United Kingdom
157 University of Liverpool United Kingdom
171 University of Nottingham United Kingdom
178 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
196 St George’s, University of London United Kingdom
198 University of East Anglia United Kingdom
199 University of Leicester

29 universities from the UK in the Top 200 doesn’t look too bad and second only to the US.

All of this is Copyright Times Higher Education. Full details can be found here:  http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/

The Promise of Personalized Education

Is this the future of student support?

There has been a lot of talk of late about learner analytics and the potential benefits in terms of tracking student performance and identifying and intervening where they are at risk of dropping out. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on a number of companies who are offering different forms of help to institutions:
613Supplement-EDTECH

This year students at Colorado State University will have their progress toward degrees tracked by technology from a company called CollegeSource. The likelihood of their encountering academic difficulty will be flagged for academic advisers and resident advisers by an online product from a company called Campus Labs. And they will receive text alerts about unsatisfactory grades via a mobile app from yet another ed-tech company, Ellucian. Students in three majors will also be assessed on their chances of succeeding in a course, on the basis of an analysis of data from thousands of previous Colorado State students who had earned the same grades, thanks to technology from the Education Advisory Board. Meanwhile, intercollegiate athletes who skip too many classes will be notified through Facebook by a company called GradesFirst that they’ve been scheduled for tutoring. And all these arrangements don’t even reflect an experiment in evaluating student progress in courses, using an analytics tool sold by Blackboard. The university ditched the experiment in the spring after realizing that professors weren’t using the learning-management system uniformly for that purpose.

While there is something quite cold and clinical about all of this, it nevertheless does offer the prospect of enabling universities better to support their students and to ensure that those most at risk of dropping out are provided with the assistance they need before it is too late.

These developments do seem inevitable as everyone looks to make more use of the student data they have and companies look to provide new and better tools for analysing it. Ultimately though all of this really does seem to offer the prospect of a significant improvement in student support.

 

Applying to uni via video

Better than qualifications?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting story on the use of videos in university applications. Whilst some institutions have been encouraging students to submit videos as supporting information, it seems at least one has now gone further and is offering students the opportunity to provide them as the primary selection tool:

Ever since George Mason University started inviting prospective students to send in videos as part of their application materials, Matthew P. Boyce, the interim admissions director there, has seen applicants try to prove their mettle in some odd ways.One young man wrote and performed a rap about why he wanted to go to the university, featuring a cameo by his grandma. Mr. Boyce recently watched footage of another candidate biting into an Indian “ghost pepper,” one of the world’s spiciest varieties. The footage was presented as evidence of the applicant’s resiliency. “It was kind of goofy,” says the admissions director, though certainly memorable.

All you need to apply to university

All you need to apply to university

George Mason is one of a handful of universities that, several years ago, gave prospective students the option of submitting short “video essays” as part of their applications.The videos were meant only as supplements to the required materials, which include standardized-test scores, grade-point averages, and recommendation letters. “It’s never going to make or break their admission to Mason,” says Mr. Boyce of the videos. Last week Goucher College announced that it was taking video submissions to the next level. Prospective students will have the option of making two-minute videos the centerpiece of an application to Goucher. If they submit a video, plus two samples of academic work, then they will not be required to send in a transcript or letter of recommendation.

Whilst the variety and opportunities for applicants may be seen as welcome it is difficult to imagine how it might be possible to ensure consistency and equity across a range of applications. Also it is not clear here what is being judged: originality, creativity, personality, film-making skills? All a bit tricky therefore and probably not something that is really going to take off.

Outsourcing student recruitment

Australian colleges trust to agents

Very surprised by this piece in @insidehighered which notes that agents have expanded their reach into domestic higher education recruitment in Australia:

When the Australian Skills Quality Authority examined 400 college websites during last year’s marketing audit, as many as 70 turned out to belong to brokerage firms rather than training providers.“It’s certainly quite a phenomenon now,” said Chris Robinson, the agency’s chief commissioner.

prolearn

A consultant, Claire Field, said marketing agents were particularly active in Queensland, mostly selling vocational diplomas. “With the higher education reforms, there’s no doubt we’ll see more activity,” she said.This is already happening, with high-flying Acquire Learning marketing degrees in ­accounting, arts, business, community services and information technology from Federation University and more than a dozen private colleges. Melbourne-based ProLearn recruits students for Victoria University’s graduate certificate in management.

 
While this does appear to be focused mainly on colleges and vocational qualifications there is some evidence of universities using such services too. Many UK institutions use agents for international recruitment but how long can it be before universities and colleges start using this kind of service for domestic student recruitment too?

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.

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.