True Crime on Monsters University Campus

More from Monsters University.

The Monsters University website (promoting the forthcoming film) is a really impressive affair and covers every aspect of university websites pretty convincingly from admissions to campus life and from institutional history to news and events.

Was also amused to note there is a Monsters University crime report:

Wednesday, 11:21pm

Students accused of “continually” lifting and transporting narcoleptic roommate to different areas of campus while asleep — and leaving him with only minimal amounts of clothing.

Thursday, 12:08am

Four female students report prank phone calls from an unknown male caller pretending to be a lost human.

Thursday, 12:59am

Report of stolen vintage typewriter from dorm room. Dispatch sent officer to investigate.
Thursday, 1:43am

Three female students report being pelted by tossed fruit from roof of Chemistry Lab building.

Thursday, 3:14pm

Student accused of keeping unlicensed urn in room. Call initiated by agitated roommate. Upon investigation by Officer Barker, the student claimed it “contained the ashes my many, many good grades.” Barker forced to stop the “slapping melee” that ensued.

Thursday 9:28pm

“PEC” poster spotted in dorm-adjacent dumpster, alongside piles of empty checkbooks.

Thursday 11:10pm

One of the Pep Squad’s pom-poms reported missing. It was later discovered in the equipment room cozying up to a spare football.

Think the real world True Crime on Campus is probably better…

Good discipline?

Universities’ disciplinary records under scrutiny.

Some entertaining reactions to a piece in the Guardian which reported that university students had paid over £0.5m in fines in a year:

Universities across the UK issued disciplinary and administrative fines totalling more than £550,000 to students last year.

Freedom of information requests from the Guardian have shown students were fined a total of £551,237.30 for offences such as smoking, drunkenness, and unauthorised parties in the last academic year. One institution said it used the money collected to fund the annual staff outing.

The results also revealed a number of peculiarities in the amounts fined for each offence. At Brunel University, while “assisting students with online tests for money” landed one student with a £250 fine, another was fined £50 for “hitting a member of staff”.

A student at Kent University was fined £50 for “insulting or violent behaviour including or involving racial, sexual or other abuse, harassment or threat of violence” – the same amount that many were charged for smoking offences.

Other offences that resulted in disciplinary action at universities included keeping chickens, leaving food on a window ledge, stealing loaves of bread and being prepared for a post-examination “trashing” of another student. Warwick University issued fines totalling £350 last year to students who were “drunk”, with no further reason given.

Some unusual offences here but perhaps nothing too remarkable for any readers of True Crime on Campus (apart perhaps from the keeping chickens offence, which is a new one to me).

Surprisingly unwelcome on campus

Surprisingly unwelcome on campus

Also, it’s perhaps a rather low sum given the large number of offences against regulations which will be committed by students every year. University do have rules and it is inevitable that many students will breach them at some point, often in halls of residence where they are learning for the first time about shared community responsibilities. The University of Nottingham’s Code of Discipline is outlined in its Ordinances and notes the reasons for the need for such legislation an students’ undertakings:

  1. Regulations on discipline are necessary because the University is a society in which good standards of communal life must be maintained, so that all its members may enjoy conditions enabling them to achieve their aims in joining it. Present students should also, in their behaviour, show proper concern for the reputation of the University and its effect on their contemporaries and their successors.

  2. The acceptance of an offer of admission by students is regarded as an undertaking to obey such University Ordinances and Regulations as are in force at any time during their period of study, and each student is required at registration to enter into such an undertaking.

So there can’t be any real room for misunderstandings there. Unless you decide to keep chickens of course.

Surprising University Recruitment Tools

An unusual attractor for the University of Nottingham.

In these highly competitive times with fierce battles being fought between institutions to attract students it is sometimes surprising which factors are influential with prospective students. Entirely anecdotally and picked up from student comments online and on open days it does seem that the very existence of the Quidditch and Harry Potter Society at the University of Nottingham has a profound influence on some students’ choices. So, it’s more than just reputation, high league table rankings, award winning campuses, wonderful facilities, international study opportunities, outstanding staff that makes the difference. Yes, to really seal the deal you have to have a society based on a fictional game involving broomsticks.

But, as the details of the society indicate there is a lot more to this than just Quidditch:

Welcome to the Quidditch and Harry Potter Society (also known as Quidditch Soc)!

Our mission is simple: to organise events and activities based around our love for the Harry Potter novels (and films). We will have lots of big events coming up. We hope to see you there!

Quidditch every single week! Turn up whenever you can (even if it’s raining — we’ll go to Mooch if everyone’s too disgruntled about the weather) and we’ll play some practice house games for an hour or two. Very beginner-friendly with lots of rules explanation and non-serious mucking around.

See also the Facebook page.

I think this is just terrific and long may the society continue. Intrigued to know though if anyone else has noticed this positive impact or any other surprising university recruitment tools.

Tackling Education Corruption

Higher Education challenges in Indonesia.

University World Newshas a story on higher education corruption in Indonesia. It sounds like a challenging environment but it does seem like the issues are being tackled:


A graft watchdog in Indonesia has sounded a red alert for the education sector as it recorded some 40 cases of corruption in 2012, causing losses to the state of around Rp139 billion (US$14.4 million).

Corruption was found at all levels of education, from elementary schools to universities, and from local education agencies to the House of Representatives, said the non-profit Indonesia Corruption Watch, or ICW.

According to the group’s latest report, around a third of the country’s entire education budget was misappropriated during procurement of goods and services.

This does seem like an extraordinary position – one third of the total education budget being lost to corrupt activities. The story does seem to show that progress is being made but there is clearly a long way to go.

Why MOOCs won’t kill universities

Forget the dire predictions – universities aren’t finished.

The MOOC evangelists have predicted that the disruption they will wreak will mean that universities are dead in the water. Christiansen foretells wholesale university bankruptcies within 10 years (since extended to 15 years). Sebastian Thrun goes further, asserting apocalyptically that within half a century there will only be 10 (10!) universities left in the world.

The evidence base underpinning these sweeping predictions is, to say the least, limited and I am therefore reluctant to invest too much effort in offering an alternative view. So you won’t find too many references here.

It is also genuinely disappointing to see the relish with which some commentators anticipate the demise of our institutions of higher learning. Fortunately, they are talking piffle as the following points demonstrate conclusively.

The future for universities?

Not the future for universities

Eight reasons then why MOOCs won’t kill universities:

  1. More not fewer. Rather than sweep institutions aside MOOCs will actually prompt growth in HE providers. The increase in the range and accessibility of online resources will stimulate demand for local universities and colleges which will have to expand to meet the expectations of those who have had their appetite whetted and have demonstrated they have the ability to pursue a higher education course.
  2. Disappointment with MOOCs. For many, not least the 9 in 10 who drop out of MOOCs, the disappointment which results from the limitations of the format or the poor quality of the provision or a multiplicity of other reasons for deciding that online content delivery is not for them may leave them wanting more. More traditional higher education providers will be on hand to offer a more rounded experience which might overcome this disappointment and build on the newly discovered enthusiasm for learning. If even a small proportion of those who don’t complete their MOOCs decide to enrol then demand for mainstream HE will grow not shrink.
  3. Universities are innovative too. Higher Education is actually rather good at innovation. Despite the appearance of stability and consistency at the core over many years (centuries in some cases) universities have always supported and nurtured innovation. They have also been subject to and had to adapt to radical changes down the years. So, there is really nothing new here for HE and we can expect plenty of interesting and creative responses to the MOOC movement. Indeed universities are accustomed to disruption and change. One of the mistakes the MOOC evangelists make is to conflate system sluggishness with institutional, departmental and individual indolence. Universities are home to many outstanding innovators and entrepreneurs and can offer incredibly dynamic and fast-moving research environments. Let’s not forget where the MOOC leaders first got their breaks
  4. Governments want to invest in HE. Governments almost everywhere continue to believe HE is a good bet for economic success and national prosperity and they will therefore continue to invest in universities regardless of the numbers claimed to be enrolling on MOOCs. There are, according to Webometrics,  currently at least 21,000 universities across the globe. This number will continue to go up in the next few years not down.
  5. Quality counts. It’s all about quality of outputs not just the inputs. If universities close it will be because of poor quality provision not as a result of MOOC offerings in themselves. It is just as likely that student demand will force weaker providers to raise their game.
  6. University diversity means most will survive. The MOOC zealots seem to think all universities, at least outside the Ivy League, are the same. They aren’t. Diversity is a strength.
  7. Universities are cunning. Bandwagon jumping by some institutions is arguably either a clever subversive tactic to undermine MOOCs from inside or a deliberate distraction from alternative disruptive innovations being undertaken by universities. I’m not allowed to say which.
  8. Universities award degrees, diplomas, certificates and credit. MOOC consortia don’t. HE providers therefore hold quite a few cards when it comes to certification of learning. MOOC enthusiasts bleat about this a lot as if it is somehow unfair. It isn’t. It’s the difference between a university with hundreds of years of public investment, history, intellectual capital and legal (or regal) underpinning and a collection of snappy videos. You don’t get to award degrees just because you want to.

So, there you have it. Despite what the doom-mongers say, universities will continue to thrive, prosper and grow. It really takes a bit more than a few MOOCs to change that.

“Title arousal” issues in German Education

Another German Minister with Doctoral Difficulties.

BBC News recently reported on German minister Annette Schavan having her doctorate withdrawn following accusations of plagiarism. This comes barely two years after another minister was found to have plagiarised parts of his dissertation.

It’s a rather unhappy picture:

A German university has voted to strip Education Minister Annette Schavan of her doctorate after an investigation into plagiarism allegations.

The University of Duesseldorf’s philosophy faculty decided on Tuesday that she had carried out “a deliberate deception through plagiarism”.

The minister has denied the claims and said she will appeal.

An earlier plagiarism row brought an end to the political career of Germany’s defence minister in 2011.

Large parts of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s 2006 legal dissertations were found by Bayreuth University to have been copied and he stood down before it issued its damning verdict in May 2011.

Using the same words as Duesseldorf’s Heinrich Heine University, it concluded that he had “deliberately deceived”.


The New York Times offers an additional angle, commenting that the scandal reflects a distinctive German fascination with titles:

Coming after Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was forced to step down as defense minister over plagiarism charges in 2011, Dr. Schavan’s déjà-vu scandal can only hurt Dr. Merkel ahead of September’s parliamentary election. But the two ministers are far from the only German officials to have recently had their postgraduate degrees revoked amid accusations of academic dishonesty, prompting national soul-searching about what the cases reveal about the German character.

Germans place a greater premium on doctorates than Americans do as marks of distinction and erudition. According to the Web site Research in Germany, about 25,000 Germans earn doctorates each year, the most in Europe and about twice the per capita rate of the United States.

Many Germans believe the scandals are rooted in their abiding respect, and even lust, for academic accolades, including the use of Prof. before Dr. and occasionally Dr. Dr. for those with two doctoral degrees. Prof. Dr. Volker Rieble, a law professor at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, calls this obsession “title arousal.”

“In other countries people aren’t as vain about their titles,” he said. “With this obsession for titles, of course, comes title envy.”

Title arousal and title envy do seem rather striking reasons for plagiarism but something very strange does seem to be happening in German politics. But also in Romania and Hungary where similar accusations have been levelled at ministers there too.

Refugee University

Bringing higher education to refugees in Kenya.

A piece last year in the Guardian reported that Kenya’s Kenyatta University was opening its doors to Somali refugees in Dadaab:

Kenyatta University is setting up a campus in Dadaab, which is home to a sprawling complex of camps housing around 470,000 refugees, mainly Somalis who crossed the nearby border to escape the cycles of war and drought in their homeland.

Courses in subjects including project management, marketing, finance, and peace and conflict studies will be on offer to refugees and locals in this remote town in north-east Kenya, 90km (55 miles) from the border with Somalia.

A really good initiative this in the most difficult of circumstances.

Dadaab refugee camp

Dadaab refugee camp

Now Inside Higher Ed reports on a Canadian initiative to support this work:

York University, in Toronto, announced on Monday that it had received more than $4.5 million from the Canadian International Development Agency to lead the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project in Dadaab, Kenya. York is one of four universities — along with Moi and Kenyatta Universities, in Kenya, and the University of British Columbia — participating in the initiative, which aims to provide higher education to primary and secondary school teachers in the six refugee camps on the Kenya-Somalia border. The BHER organizers are focusing on education for teachers – who in many cases have completed only primary or secondary school themselves – with the objective of indirectly improving the quality of education for thousands of their students.

Don Dippo, a professor of education at York, explained that the first cohort of 200 teachers/students will be admitted this summer for a foundation year program. Following the foundation year, the participating universities have committed to offer various two-year diploma and three- or four-year degree programs. The programs will be delivered through a hybrid of face-to-face and online instruction.

BHER’s organizers expect to enroll 200 new students a year, for a total of 1,000, over the five-year term of the grant.

I was hugely impressed with the original steps being taken by Kenyatta University but it is also great to see Canadian universities joining in. It would be even better if UK institutions offered their support to Kenyatta too.

High Speed HE: China Expands Abroad

A Chinese University Expands Into Malaysia.

Very fast indeed

Very fast indeed

The New York Times has a fascinating piece on a Chinese university expanding into Malaysia:

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia said that the Selangor branch would initially take in 10,000 students, reported Bernama, the Malaysian state news agency. The student body would be divided into thirds, consisting of Chinese nationals, Malaysians and others.

The Malaysian campus, which will have five faculties and about 700 teaching staff members, is projected to cost 600 million Malaysian ringgit, or almost $200 million.

Ter Leong Yap, chairman of the luxury property developer Sunsuria and a Malaysian-Chinese business leader, helped fund the campus, the Malaysian state agency reported. The Chinese institution already has some ties to Southeast Asia: Its founder, the Xiamen-born businessman Tan Kah Kee, set up numerous schools in Singapore in the early 20th century.

The primary mode of instruction will be English, though there will be a department dedicated to Chinese language and literature.

It’s a massively ambitious project. Having an initial intake of 10,000 students would be extraordinary. I’m sure it will take them a few years to reach that number but nevertheless it would be an incredibly rapid growth plan. In a UK context such an institution would be medium-sized but it is worth remembering that it took more than 25 years for the universities founded in the 1960s to reach this kind of size.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

The new institution would also be double the size of the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus which itself has not been slow in expanding to 4,500 students in just over a decade. If it does go ahead though you do feel that China will make sure it does deliver this growth. And then there will be even more competition for the other international universities already operating in Malaysia.

True Crime on Campus §27: happy new year

More true crime on campus: new year, new incidents.

Whilst it might have been a bit quieter over the festive period there is always something going on to test our always busy Security team:

1135 Report of a spillage of vegetable oil outside Portland Building Security attended and taped the area off to ensure that no one slipped in the oil.

0233 Report of a student with an injury to her ankle in Hall. Security attended the student had been running in high heels and slipped over in the City Centre. As a precaution the Student was taken to the QMC. The Warden is to be informed.

13:50 Security were called to the Trent Building as a staff member reported two parts missing from a coffee machine. Security to follow up.

04:50 Security assistance requested by Hall Tutor as 3 students had removed the furniture from their rooms and built rooms outside. Hall Warden informed

0345 Security received a complaint from a Med Link Delegate in Hall complaining that they were too hot in their room. Security attended and turned the radiator down and moved the bed away from the radiator.

1840 Report of Two Students 45 feet up a tree on the Downs. Security attended the areas was checked no sign of students up trees.

2140 Report of a “smelly blower “at DLRC. Security attended. The hot air curtain at the entrance to the building was thought to smelling. Officers could not detect any issue with it.

1705 Report that a person had fallen over adjacent to the Maths Building. Security attended. The person was a four year child who was with their parent. The parent refused any advice from the Officers and left.

1207 Security Officers observed a Hopper Bus drive across a Pedestrian crossing on Keighton Hill whilst pedestrians were using it – some of them had to jump out of the way. Officers followed the Bus until it stopped on Beeston lane. Officers then spoke to the driver who stated he did not see the pedestrians.

2316 Report that a Tutor had been Rugby tackled by a student outside the Hall. The Student was part of the American Football team who were having a Social event. Details of two of the group have been taken and will be passed onto the Warden.
1030 Report of the lift not working with a person trapped in Portland Building. The Building Attendant and Security Officers attended. The button was pushed which started the lift working and released the person.

Launch of the nice university league table

New league table: nearly there.

A previous post noted the imminent arrival of the all new European non-ranking ranking. Well now it seems to be nearly complete with only a year to wait until the first ranking is produced. The public launch of the ‘multi-dimensional’ ranking, which is intended to cover a wider range of indicators than the existing main league tables. Whilst research is one of the factors, the ranking will also cover quality of teaching and learning, international orientation, success in knowledge transfer and contribution to regional growth. The core proposition it seems is that this table will somehow not be a ranking and will therefore be nicer than all those other nasty league tables which put institutions in order.



The press release from the launch noted:

Speaking ahead of the launch, Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth said: “Universities are one of Europe’s most successful inventions, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to think and act more strategically to realise the full potential of our universities. To do that, we need better information about what they offer and how well they perform. Existing rankings tend to highlight research achievements above all, but U-Multirank will give students and institutions a clear picture of their performance across a range of important areas. This knowledge will help students to choose the university or college that is best for them. It will also contribute to the modernisation and quality of higher education by enabling universities to identify their strengths or weaknesses and learn from each other’s experience; finally, it will give policy makers a more complete view of their higher education systems so that they can strengthen their country’s performance as a whole.”

A lot of work has gone into the new ranking:

An independent consortium will compile the ranking, led by the Centre for Higher Education (CHE) in Germany and the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) in the Netherlands. Partners include the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University (CWTS), information professionals Elsevier, the Bertelsmann Foundation and software firm Folge 3. The consortium will also work with national ranking partners and stakeholder organisations representing students, universities and business to ensure completeness and accuracy.

The ambition is there and the EU investment backs this up. Will it take off? Will the leading universities, who do so well in the current world rankings, want to join in? Will anyone really think it’s a nicer ranking? Time will tell.

Speaking with difficulty

New advice from the Charity Commission sows some confusion.

The Charity Commission has recently published some new guidance which is intended to help trustees protect their charities against “abuse by extremists.” This guide/toolkit though seems to offer a particular challenge to universities which are subject to legislation on external speakers dating back to 1986 which was designed for a quite different purpose.

Let’s start with the new guidance from the Commission on “Protecting your charity against abuse by extremists”:

The guide, which is available on the regulator’s website from today [Tuesday 22 January 2013], explains trustees’ duty to prevent their charity being used to promote extremist views or terrorist ideology.

The toolkit also suggests steps trustees can take to minimise risks associated with particular activities, such as organising public events and debates and circulating information.

It is aimed in particular at charities that host regular events involving external speakers, and those with educational purposes that distribute material and information. Examples include charitable think tanks and debating societies, students’ unions, schools, colleges and universities and religious charities.

OK, so far so general. But when we get to the detail of the guidance it becomes clear that the Commission things get a bit interesting. Whilst any illegal views or action is, of course, unacceptable, charities are required to consider whether allowing a particular speaker to present their views may be inconsistent with public benefit as this extract from Chapter 5, Section E of the guidance indicates:

Under charity law, charities must comply with the public benefit requirement. Views or activities which are violent or which encourage violence cannot be for the public benefit because they are illegal. In addition, there are other extreme views and activities, particularly activities which seek to radicalise or use radicalising materials which may be inappropriate for a charity to host or promote. Such views may not be in furtherance of the charity’s purposes, or may breach the rules on political activities. Other extreme views may help to create an environment conducive to terrorism. In addition, promoting views which are harmful to social cohesion, such as denigrating those of a particular faith or promoting segregation on religious or racial grounds, or which seek to radicalise by making claims to which violence is subsequently presented as the only solution may well be inconsistent with the public benefit requirement even though such views might fall well below the criminal threshold. All these pose unacceptable risks to a charity.

Ed act

But if we look now at The Education (No. 2) Act 1986 there is a very direct requirement on universities to ensure and promote freedom of speech. This dates from a time when Conservative ministers were being prevented from speaking on university campuses by the actions of well-organised groups of students and the government was therefore keen to ensure they were protected and enabled to present their views. The Act provides that:

(1)Every individual and body of persons concerned in the government of any establishment to which this section applies shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.
(2)The duty imposed by subsection (1) above includes (in particular) the duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the use of any premises of the establishment is not denied to any individual or body of persons on any ground connected with—
(a)the beliefs or views of that individual or of any member of that body; or
(b)the policy or objectives of that body.

So there is a positive duty to ensure that speakers are not prevented from speaking because of their views or beliefs or the policies of the organisation.

In addition, universities have to have in place a code of practice which sets all of this and there are further specific obligations:

A duty on every individual and body of persons concerned in the government of the institution to take such steps as are reasonably practicable (including, where appropriate, the initiation of disciplinary measures) to secure that the requirements of the code of practice are observed.

A duty to ensure that the use of any university premises is not denied to any individual or body of persons on the grounds of their beliefs, views, policies or objectives.

Whilst it is clear that the 1986 Act does not extend to speakers who break other laws or incite violence, nevertheless it does appear to require universities to adopt a rather different position to that set out in the Charity Commission’s guidance. Whilst this legislation and the Commission’s guidance are separated by over quarter of a century of change in HE and are intended to address very different challenges, the apparent conflict between them is, I fear, going to cause some real problems for universities before too long.