Better Believe It......Because They Actually Happen(ed) Collection 9

Today's university students are being sold a lie

Expanding higher education has led to too many useless universities, useless degrees and useless graduates, says Alex Proud

By Alex Proud

The recent bad economic news from Germany has our pundits in a frenzy. Having spent the last few years banging on about how we should be more like Germany, they’ve now found a reason to go back to slagging Germany off – and, of course, they’re delighted. It’s as predictable as fashion hacks disowning the styles they championed six months earlier, with the added “fun” of endless digs about a war that ended a lifetime ago and a football game we once won.

I am, of course, half German. My German half comes from my strong, forthright mother. As a result I’ve long championed the way Germans do many things. Dare I say it, I liked Germany before it was cool. And now it’s no longer cool, I still like Germany. Economically they take the long view. Sure, the news is bad at the moment. But the Germans don’t really care what a bunch of squawking neo-liberal click-bait columnists think. They’ll just stick at it and, in the long run, the average German will be richer than the average Brit. They’ll beat us at football too.

Anyway, being half German means I was very excited when, back in 2011, two great German positives appeared to come together in the UK. The coalition (Germans like coalition governments) said it was going to put apprenticeships (Germans like apprenticeships) at the heart of government policy and use them to solve the skills mismatch. Brilliant, I thought: we can start training people to do real jobs, kick off the long process of reinvigorating our manufacturing sector and start to rebalance our economy in favour of the 99.9% of the people who don’t work in the great casino down south.

Full story at The Telegraph (September 2014)

Top academic posts are too precious to give up

Universities have their reasons, not always honourable, not to let them go

History professor Zhang Kaiyuan finally retiring at 88.

By Alice Yan

A person over the age of 80 will normally have long since retired. But if the job is a top mainland academic post, then retirement is a hard decision as such a role offers great power and benefits that usually too enticing to give up.

That's why the decision of 88-year-old Zhang Kaiyuan to retire from his position as a senior history professor at Huazhong Normal University in Wuhan has attracted widespread attention.

China's highest academic positions include members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences or the Chinese Academy of Engineering, or senior professors in liberal arts. Such titles, effectively held for life, are given to academics to honour scholastic achievements - just as in the West.

Top mainland academics enjoy competitive packages, on a par with that of a deputy minister, that include cars, houses, preferential medical treatment and a generous living allowance.

The rationale for such largesse goes beyond simply wishing to reward scholars. Such institutions know that employing acclaimed academics and senior professors can help them to secure lucrative benefits granted by the authorities, such as additional honours, funding or development projects. Therefore, even if some of the elderly academics ask to retire, their institutions usually reject their requests.

Full story at South China Morning Post (October 2014)

The students who feel they have the right to cheat

By Craig Jeffrey

Students are often keen to exercise their rights but recently there has been an interesting twist - some in India are talking about their right to cheat in university exams.

It is our democratic right!" a thin, addled-looking man named Pratap Singh once said to me as he stood, chai in hand, outside his university in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. "Cheating is our birthright."

Corruption in the university exam system is common in this part of India. The rich can bribe their way to examination success. There's even a whole subset of the youth population who are brokers between desperate students and avaricious administrators.

Then there's another class of student altogether, who are so well known locally - so renowned for their political links - invigilators dare not touch them. I've heard that these local thugs sometimes leave daggers on their desk in the exam hall. It's a sign to invigilators: "Leave me alone... or else."

So if those with money or political influence can cheat, poorer students ask, why shouldn't they?

Full story at BBC News Magazine (November 2014)

Idaho teacher kills rabbit, skins it, during biology class

High school instructor said he was demonstrating how animals are processed for food. He snapped the bunny’s neck as 10th graders watched.

By Deborah Hastings

Death to bunny: Idaho teacher in big trouble after killing rabbit in class, then skinning it.

It wasn't exactly a reenactment of the rabbit scene in "Fatal Attraction," but it was bad enough to get an Idaho teacher in a lot of hot water.

A biology instructor is facing disciplinary action after he snapped the neck of a bunny in class, then skinned and chopped up the body, school officials said.

The part-time teacher was not identified. He is also a farmer. The demonstration was intended to show the 10th grade students how foot gets to the table.

Full story at NY Daily News (November 2014)