The week in higher education – 23 November 2023

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

十一月 23, 2023
Cartoon: next to a door that says 'Swinburne v-c en suite' a man in a cork-dangling hat says to a woman: 'The soundproofing cuts out the noise of the protests'
Source: Nick Newman

Whenever the late Queen Elizabeth II travelled on a royal tour she famously had to have a bathroom dedicated for her own private use wherever she went. An expectation worthy of a monarch, perhaps, but the rest of us generally put up with using communal lavatories while at work. Not Pascale Quester, vice-chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology, who has had a private en suite installed next to her office, The Age reported. The university has withheld the cost of installing the “soundproofed” suite, which reportedly encroaches on an area used by staff, but denied a union’s estimate of AUS$250,000 (£130,000). Professor Quester’s office said she needed her own loo because of the number of early morning and evening commitments she attends but it has inflamed tensions among staff who have been campaigning for more pay. Luckily, the vice-chancellor won’t be encountering any of them while washing her hands any time soon.

The Daily Star is not a newspaper known for its extensive higher education coverage, and its updates on the latest developments in medical education are rarer still. Reporters at the red top had their interest piqued, however, by a new Aston University project intended to help students practise procedures such as CPR on people with larger body types. Although widely used by medical schools for students not quite ready to be let loose on real human bodies, manikins mostly represent a somewhat idealised view of the average person’s physique, Liz Moores, the project’s leader, pointed out. She has therefore developed what is thought to be the world’s first overweight model complete with, as the Star was keen to emphasise, “large breasts”. Professor Moores added that “diversity in manikins has already extended to skin tone, age and more recently certain disabilities”.

Opera is sometimes criticised as an elitist pastime but a professor who teaches it at the University of Sussex has shown he is very much in touch with real-life debates, even if it does mean hours of pain for those caught up in his protests. Nicholas Till, professor of opera and music theatre at Sussex, has been fined for his involvement in the group Insulate Britain, Brighton’s The Argus reported. He was found guilty of causing a public nuisance for his role in protests that held up the M25 motorway in 2021. The group members demanded homes be fitted with better insulation but have instead been issued with fines and unpaid work orders. In a statement worthy of his theatrical background, Professor Till said “the carbon state” had “brought all its might to silence and crush those of us who undertook a non-violent act of civil resistance”.

At Stonehenge, thousands gather twice a year to celebrate the summer and winter solstices, watching the sun rise and set between the stones of the ancient monument. New York City, meanwhile, has “Manhattanhenge”, during which the rising or setting sun aligns exactly with the street grid of the city’s most densely populated borough. As for Cambridge, Massachusetts? It can lay claim to MITHenge, which sees the sun perfectly illuminate one very long corridor. Twice a year, the sunset spills down an 825-foot hallway that spans almost the entirety of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus from east to west, known by the university community as the Infinite Corridor. This year, the phenomenon took place from 10 to 13 November, lighting the Infinite Corridor in splendid orange. Planetary sciences professor Richard Binzel marked the occasion with a lecture on cosmic alignment, student newspaper The Tech reported, while “refreshments and a closing reception” were held to wrap up the event.

For Swifties at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business, their Wildest Dreams just came true: next spring, they can take a class titled “The Entrepreneurial Genius of Taylor Swift”, taught by Kelly McCormick. This isn’t the first university course inspired by the superstar: Stanford, New York and Rice universities, as well as the University of Texas at Austin, are among the institutions who know All Too Well the seat-filling powers of Ms Swift. Inspired by the record-breaking Eras Tour, which reportedly made Ms Swift a billionaire, McCormick told Houston Public Media that the study of Ms Swift’s business acumen could prove “a really interesting way for a lot of students to be introduced to entrepreneurship, maybe some people that found it intimidating or maybe weren’t interested in business”. Out of 75 available spots, only 10 remained as of 14 November; latecomers, you’ll be lucky to find a Blank Space in the classroom. 



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