News round-up: Casual academics are doing huge amounts of unpaid work

Academic staff on casual contracts do twice the amount of work they are paid for, and a member of the House of Lords hopes to outlaw essay mills


Scientists quit Nobel-winning project over authorship dispute

Times Higher Education, 05/07/2019, David Matthews

A dispute over paper authorship has led to scientists quitting the celebrated project that in 2015 successfully detected the existence of gravitational waves, a Nobel prizewinning physicist has revealed.

Rainer Weiss, one of the founders of the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), whose discovery ended a 100-year hunt for the phenomena long predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, revealed that battles over scientific recognition had caused “a lot of friction” at the project, which involves around 1,000 scientists.


King’s College London sorry over royal visit student bans

BBC, 04/07/2019, Anon

King’s College London (KCL) has apologised and admitted it was wrong to ban a group of students from campus during a royal visit.

The Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge visited the university’s Strand Campus on 19 March to open Bush House.


Accept lecture capture despite attendance drop, says dean

Times Higher Education, 04/07/2019, Anna McKie

One of the biggest studies of its kind to date has concluded that although the introduction of lecture capture does lead to reduced attendance, academics must accept that students see it as a valuable part of the learning experience.

Video recording of teaching is now common on most Western campuses, but it remains a contentious issue for some academics, who have raised concerns about issues ranging from intellectual property rights to the use of footage to undermine industrial action, as well as the impact on students’ attendance.


Casual academics ‘work double the hours they are paid for’

Times Higher Education, 04/07/2019, Nick Mayo

Part-time academics in UK universities are working double the hours that they get paid for, according to a study that warns that casualisation brings “shame” to the sector.

Data on 1,568 part-time teaching staff, collected in a survey by the University and College Union and published on 4 July, showed that respondents were contracted to work for a mean average of 14 and a half hours per week. However, because their contracted hours did not allow enough time for preparation, marking and other activities, they estimated that they actually worked 26 hours – meaning that 11 and a half hours, or 44.6 per cent of their working time, was unpaid. On the median average, half of part-time staff’s labour was unpaid.


English regulator issues first refusal on provider loan access

Times Higher Education, 04/07/2019, John Morgan

England’s sector regulator has issued its first decision to refuse permission for a college to be included on the register of providers – which means new students enrolling at that institution will not be able to access publicly funded student loans.

The Office for Students published a notice on 4 July saying that the Bloomsbury Institute Limited, which states on its website that it offers business, accountancy and law degrees awarded by the University of Northampton, had failed to meet registration conditions on two grounds: quality, and management and governance.

See also: First higher education institution is stripped access to student loans amid concerns over low quality degrees


Cambridge teaching staff to protest over insecure work during open days

The Guardian, 04/07/2019, Sally Weale

Teaching staff at Cambridge University are to hold protests during open days this week to alert parents and prospective students to the problem of insecure employment at the institution.

Two-thirds of Cambridge teaching staff are paid by the hour and three-quarters do not have a contract, according to the University and College Union (UCU). Protesters say the precarious nature of their work is impacting on mental health and some are struggling to pay their bills.


Wrexham’s Glyndwr University angry at housing plan rejection

BBC, 04/07/2019, Anon

A university has urged Wrexham council to support a £60m college revamp after key parts of the plan were rejected.

Glyndwr University won backing for seven out of nine planning applications related to its Campus 2025 project but lost bids for housing on surplus land.


Backbench bid to outlaw essay mills in England and Wales launched

Times Higher Education, 03/07/2019, Anna McKie

A backbench bid has been launched to outlaw essay mills in England and Wales.

The private member’s bill, being laid before Parliament by Lord Storey, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman in the House of Lords, would “make it an offence to provide or advertise cheating services for higher education assessments” for financial gain.


‘Culture of racism’ at Cardiff University slammed by Muslim student who says he was ‘targeted’ during election campaign

Wales Online, 03/07/2019, Matt Discombe

A former vice president of Cardiff University Students’ Union has said there is a culture of racism at the university, claiming he was targeted during an election campaign.

Amr Alwishah says he was wrongly labelled as homophobic, anti-Semitic, a liar and accused of using ‘dirty tactics’ in his campaign to be president of the students’ union in February this year.


Dogs ‘prevent stressed students dropping out’

BBC/02/07/2019/Sean Coughlan

Stress among students really can be reduced by spending time with animals, according to research from the US.

It has become increasingly common for universities to bring “therapy dogs” on to campus – but claims about their benefits have often been anecdotal.


Cambridge to assign white academics an ethnic minority mentor to combat racism and assist ‘institutional change’

Daily Telegraph, 02/07/2019, Camilla Turner

Cambridge University is running a “reverse mentoring” scheme for staff to combat “structural racism”.

Under the project, white senior academics and management staff are assigned one of their black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues as a mentor in order to encourage “institutional change” at the university.


Cambridge University lowers threshold for students to be kicked out over sex allegations

Daily Telegraph, 02/07/2019, Camilla Turner

Cambridge University is to lower the threshold for students to be kicked out over sex allegations.

From the start of the next academic year, the university will rely on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probabilities when considering student disciplinary issues.


College bans its students from protesting over ex-Oxfam boss Dame Barbara Stocking

The Times, 02/07/2019, Rosemary Bennett

A Cambridge college ordered students to halt a protest against the leadership of Dame Barbara Stocking over the Oxfam sex scandal, saying that it amounted to harassment.

A number of students at Murray Edwards College erected signs in their bedroom windows calling on the college to “Fire Dame Barbara” but were swiftly visited by a senior tutor and told to take them down over the weekend.


Disgraced vice-Chancellor who resigned amid watchdog inquiry awarded a £270,000 ‘golden goodbye’ 

Daily Telegraph, 01/07/2019, Camilla Turner

A disgraced vice-chancellor who resigned amid an inquiry about his conduct was awarded a £270,000 “golden goodbye” it has emerged, as the regulator finds “systematic” failings at De Montfort University.

Prof Dominic Shellard, a former Labour councillor, resigned in February with immediate effect during a watchdog investigation into governance and “a number of regulatory matters”.


Regulator finds ‘systemic’ failings at De Montfort after v-c exit

Times Higher Education, 01/07/2019, John Morgan

An investigation by the English sector regulator into De Montfort University following the exit of its former vice-chancellor, Dominic Shellard, and whistleblower allegations has found “significant and systemic” failings in the institution’s governance.

De Montfort said in a statement that it acknowledged that governance “was inadequate and that the governing body did not provide sufficient and robust oversight of the university’s leadership, in particular the vice-chancellor”.


Taxpayer to meet 47% of student debt

The Times, 28/06/2019, Rosemary Bennett

Taxpayers will end up paying 47p of every pound borrowed by students this academic year, analysis suggests.

The figure, a projection of what this year’s students are likely to repay, is 2p in the pound above last year’s and the highest on record.


UK’s Prevent strategy ‘biggest threat to free speech on campus’

The Guardian, 27/06/2019, Richard Adams

The Prevent strategy for curtailing extremism in the UK is the biggest threat to free speech at universities rather than media caricatures of “snowflake” students, according to a director of Liberty.

Corey Stoughton, director of advocacy at the human rights organisation, said the tactics of the strategy for monitoring campus activism had a “chilling effect” on black and Muslim students, provoking self censorship for fear of being labelled extremist.


Academic faces sack for letter to Sunday Times that criticised training on trans issues

Sunday Times, 23/06/2019, Sian Griffiths

A lecturer who signed an open letter to The Sunday Times criticising LGBT training in universities has been threatened with being sackedas an editor of an academic journal unless she recants.

Sarah Honeychurch, a fellow in the Adam Smith Business School at Glasgow University, was among more than 30 academics who signed the letter in last week’s Sunday Times. It registered “disquiet” over a programme run by the charity Stonewall in which “anti-scientific claims are presented . . . as objective fact”.