The Week in Higher Education

The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, May 15, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Week in Higher Education


Colin Pillinger, the planetary scientist best known for his attempt to land a probe on Mars, has died aged 70. Professor Pillinger, founder of the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute at The Open University, died after suffering a brain haemorrhage at his home in Cambridge. He led the 2003 Beagle 2 project, a probe built to search for life on Mars but that vanished before the landing took place. "His vision of space exploration and his dedication to it inspired the nation," said David Willetts, the universities and science minister. The BBC News website noted on 8 May that Professor Pillinger had once recounted how, in the Open University car park, he beat a lorry to a parking space and feared being "thumped" as he saw the driver walk towards him. The professor said: "He stuffed this huge paw through the window and said: 'You're the man who launched Beagle 2, aren't you? I want to shake your hand, mate.' And that to me says everything. There's nobody in the UK I didn't reach."

Last week's Week in HE detailed the row over president of the Oxford Union Benjamin Sullivan's membership of a college drinking society. To add to his woes, Mr Sullivan was arrested on suspicion of rape and attempted rape on 7 May and later released on bail. And now the University of Oxford's societies have come under "renewed scrutiny", The Times said on 10 May. Among examples highlighted by the paper were the invitation-only Piers Gaveston Society, which, said one former member, "is like the Bullingdon, but with a s***load of drugs", and the Millers, a men-only society whose members are chosen for their "sporting prowess and general laddishness". One member cheerfully noted how a first-year student last year "fell down some stairs and was hospitalised with concussion and a minor brain haemorrhage".

Boasting about an honorary degree is one step up from bragging about a cycling proficiency badge, you might think. But Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy, P Diddy or just Diddy, enthusiastically trumpeted his honorary degree from Howard University in Washington DC, where he also gave the commencement address to graduating students. The rapper and producer, who dropped out of Howard after two years on a business major, provided updates to his 9. …

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