The Week in Higher Education: News

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- London mayor Boris Johnson used a speech at Peking University to make a "full-throttle effort to upstage (chancellor) George Osborne". The Times reported on 15 October that the Tory politicians' "mildly uncomfortable double act" at the university was part of a week-long tour of China. Mr Osborne's speech to 200 students was "delivered stiffly and made his audience fall almost silent", but Mr Johnson evoked "20 gales of laughter" with references to Downton Abbey, Harry Potter (although his erroneous reference to the wizard's first girlfriend being from China later got him into hot water) and a 2008 dash to buy a suit in a Beijing market so he "would look less scruffy". It did not occur to him, it seems, to get a haircut.

- Any good PR Peking University may have won by hosting the world's most high-profile former shadow higher education minister was obliterated a few days later by news that it had sacked an economist with a history of criticising China's government. The Guardian reported on 21 October that the removal of Xia Yeliang as associate professor of economics raises fears of a renewed state crackdown on free speech. Professor Xia, who helped imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo to draft a manifesto calling for reform of China's one-party system, claimed that his removal had been ordered by "high-level authorities". Peking denied this, stating that he was fired for poor teaching and that he had been the "worst-ranked teacher for many years in a row". Professor Xia labelled that a smear, noting that no one in 30 years had been dismissed for poor teaching. Even if it is true, there may well be UK universities ready to offer him a lifeline as long as he can be submitted to the research excellence framework and can get to the UK by next week's census date.

- Residents of Lincoln are demanding that the city's university contribute Pounds 40,000 towards a service to tackle antisocial students. The Lincolnshire Echo reported on 17 October that locals, fed up with "all-night parties, urinating in gardens, verbal abuse, thefts of road signs and vandalism to cars", have asked the University of Lincoln to fund a telephone hotline and enforcement officers to attend incidents reported in the early hours. …


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