The Week in Higher Education: News

Times Higher Education, October 17, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Week in Higher Education: News


- Growing numbers of students are popping "cognitive enhancing drugs" to boost their grades and job prospects, the Daily Mail reported on 10 October. The use of prescription-only pills such as Modafinil is "sweeping campuses", with many students "addicted to (the) brain Viagra" that allows them to study for 12 hours without looking up from their books, the paper said. One in four students at the University of Oxford had taken "smart pills", while one in 10 at the University of Cambridge had experimented, according to some surveys, the Mail said. Although the drugs can have known side-effects, Barbara Sahakian, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at Cambridge, was concerned that little was known about their long-term effects. "Not enough research has been done to see what effects these have on fit and healthy people," she told the paper.

- A creepy clown whose eerie appearances have spooked a town has been unmasked as a University of Northampton student, the Sunday People revealed on 13 October. Dressed as the homicidal clown Pennywise from the film adaptation of Stephen King's novel It, 22-year-old Alex Powell would stand motionless clutching balloons in Northampton town centre, unnerving many passers-by. More than 180,000 people have liked pictures of him on Facebook, but others suffering coulrophobia - the abnormal fear of clowns - begged the film-maker to stop, the paper says. However, it seems that Mr Powell has no intention of ending his mysterious appearances despite a spot of bother from locals. "It was just a bit of fun at first and a lot of people seem to enjoy it, but it gets a bit hard sometimes with the death threats," he said.

- The UK's student finance set-up is "a fragile system that is going to break" because most graduates will struggle to repay their loans, the Observer's Will Hutton argued on 13 October. Mr Hutton, principal of Hertford College, Oxford, and chair of the Independent Commission on Fees, said those emerging from England's universities would be more debt-laden than US graduates because of a "unique double whammy" of "high interest rates and sky-high debt" added to low starting salaries. …

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