Education Diary: Bahram Bekhradnia's clever wheeze

Click to follow
The Independent Online

* Surviving as a think tank is not easy at the best of times, particularly if you specialise in higher education and have to squeeze money out of tight-fisted foundations. But Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, has come up with a clever wheeze. He has struck up a relationship with the Saudis and has become their representative in the United Kingdom on higher education. In return for a fee (we hope it's a large one) Hepi will give advice to Saudi Arabia and create opportunities for their academics to visit the UK and vice versa. But that's not all. Hepi will also review the Saudis' strategy for developing its universities. We hope that pays for a few more years of hard-hitting research projects.

* The student loan debt is being sold off in three tranches over the next three years to bring in money for the Treasury. The sum being mooted is £66bn, which sounds like a lot of lolly coming in to Whitehall. But the amount could have been bigger, we hear. The loans that the Student Loans Company provides to students from elsewhere in the European Union are thought to be such a bad bet – how will the loans company be able to collect the debt once students have returned to their home countries – that EU student loans have been excluded from the sale. This means we taxpayers will have to bear the risks of the EU students who study here and take out student loans. Does that sound fair?

* Any newly qualified or would-be teachers who read with interest last week's pages on NQTs will be excited about a website that was launched recently. The site,, is a comprehensive resource dedicated to helping NQTs to enjoy – or rather, survive – that all-important first year in the classroom. There is a fixed annual fee of £99 for primary schools and £129 for secondaries, regardless of the number of NQTs they have in post. We suggest that the new website give some free advice to NQTs on how to get their cash-strapped schools to part with the money in the first place.

* One of our diary reporters received his one and only detention at school for leaning back on his chair. If only the new Don't Lean Back chair had existed back then. Tom Wates, a teacher from south-east London, has designed a seat that employs sleek, modern design to prevent restless children from rocking. Apparently 7,000 children are taken to hospital each year as a direct consequence of chair-related accidents and 12 per cent of adult back pain has been attributed to poor school seating. All bad stuff; but our hack can't forget that one blot on an otherwise impeccable school career.

* Students at Edinburgh University are being urged to get a sexual health MOT before they go out for a spin at the union St Valentine's Day party. Edinburgh University Students' Association is running a sexual health campaign with Healthy Respect and Caledonia Youth and is focusing on raising awareness of safer sex and symptoms of sexually transmitted infection.

Free condoms are being handed out as well as pregnancy and chlamydia testing kits at the Edinburgh University Students' Association Advice Place.

"While it is not the best day out you can have, it really is not as bad as you might think," says Gordon Aikman, EUSA vice president for welfare. What better way to celebrate this Valentine's Day than have a doctor snap on some surgical gloves and....