Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Article excerpt

Privacy debate is not simple or settled

Ron Iphofen claims to broadly favour protecting safety or security over protecting privacy (or at least the concept of privacy that he is confident is becoming fast outdated) ("Better safe than sorry", Features, 28 April).

A few things spring to mind: first, this is a debate that will never be settled, and should never be settled - something that Iphofen prefers not to discuss, even though the continuation of the debate demonstrates a healthy tension between liberty and security. Second, Iphofen does not fully acknowledge the value that clearer, more detailed laws that keep pace with technological and social change would add to the debate. Third, however, the law on privacy in the UK and Europe is in a state of change and shift, and not all of it towards privacy protection.

The most extreme or unlawful activities of the Metropolitan Police's Special Demonstration Squad and successor undercover units are not merely a "fixation" to the victims of their "surveillance", and Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers face serious consequences for enlightening us all, to put it mildly. It must be remembered that in the UK, undercover policing is subject to the ongoing Pitchford inquiry, because the facts around the extent of extreme or unlawful undercover police surveillance are far from certain, and that we are in the midst of parliamentary wrangling over an investigatory powers bill that will somehow manage to both be more transparent and accountable on the issue of surveillance powers, but also afford the home secretary and her allies some newer, more controversial surveillance powers, than ever before.

Jamie Grace

Senior lecturer in law

Sheffield Hallam University

The nitty-gritty

Character education, which was discussed in your article "True grit: the next lesson to be added to curriculum?" (News, 28 April) is not an antidote to social advantage, and Nik Miller, director of the Bridge Group, is right when he says that students from advantaged backgrounds access the opportunities to develop character education more than those for whom getting into higher education in the first place represented more of a social and financial struggle.

Universities are nevertheless an excellent place to encourage all students to take up those opportunities and to create incentives within the curriculum for them to do so. This is not about expecting academics to "teach" character. As Sir John Holman says, that's not how it works. But we can look for ways to ensure that our teaching taps into the positive reinforcement of positive behaviours.

Few universities even consider the issue, however - as with raising soft skills and other non-academic areas of employability - we could do a lot more to develop social capital by thinking not just about what we teach, but how we teach - and also how students learn and how they engage with their whole student experience.

Johnny_Rich

Via timeshighereducation.com

It's good to give

The immediate answer to the question "why should graduates donate to their alma maters?", which Richard Budd poses in his blog post "Isn't asking for alumni donations, well, just weird?" (25 April, www.timeshighereducation.com), is that you would have had to pay more for the experience and education that you received if alumni had not been donating. The moral question becomes one of whether you would like to return the favour for future generations. …

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