Student news round-up: KCL takes £26m from Qatar to train army officers


Elliot Davies
Wednesday 19 November 2014 14:03 GMT

KCL academics teaching Qatari military in £26m deal

Seven faculty members from the Defence Studies department of King's College London are teaching strategy and leadership to officers from the Qatari army, according to Roar News.

The "military education" course, which is being delivered at the Joaan Bin Jassim college in Doha, is part of a three-year teaching contract worth £26 million between KCL and the Qatari government. KCL staff teach a similar course to UK officers at Shrivenham.

Professor Denise Lievesley, the dean of the university's Faculty of Social Sciences and Public Policy, called Qatar "comparatively liberal" for the region and said the tuition would "expose Qatari officers to liberal ideas."

She stressed that the academic freedom of King’s staff is “high on the agenda” and that King’s staff have “felt free to ask uncomfortable questions about the regime.”

Payday lender to speak at financial literacy event

Smart Pig, a payday loans company, is to speak at a Sheffield seminar aimed at "tackling student welfare issues and improving student retention".

Forge Press reports that Tom Harrison, the student union welfare officer, and Colum McGuire, the NUS vice-president for welfare, asked the event's organiser to stop Smart Pig from speaking at the event but the Westminster Higher Education Forum has refused.

Mr McGuire said: "[Smart Pig's] presence at these types of events could serve to suggest that they have a legitimate role to play in student finance. I’m clear that they do not."

Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said he had consequently pulled out of chairing the event. "It is like asking a casino to advise on problem gambling," he said.

Smart Pig said on its website that it had "unrivalled experience and data" that could benefit students attending the event, and emphasised its "very sympathetic" approach to dealing with customers.

Armed police called to York campus

A roleplaying sword was mistaken for a real weapon and resulted in armed police being called out to one of the University of York's halls of residence, according to Nouse.

A student was carrying the replica sword as part of a week-long game of Assassin's Circle, organised by a student society. In the game players are assigned a target to "assassinate", for example by touching them with a foam sword or shooting them with a Nerf gun.

Police have since advised members of the public to keep replica weapons out of sight. Chris Wall, the Activities Officer at the York students' union, said: "We have a policy in place in conjunction with the police force to ensure that they know of society activity and we don’t run into issues such as the one today. This wasn’t communicated properly to the new [society] committee. This has [now] been told to them. [The society] have been really proactive in talking with us to avoid the issue in the future and we really appreciate the continued support and professionalism of the police.”

The society has since announced that it has banned the use of LARP weaponry during its event and that it will notify police of future games.

Vice-chancellors questioned again over pay

In one of several stories highlighting the pay of top university officials this week, the Strathclyde Telegraph reports how its university has been criticised for refusing to disclose whether Sir Jim McDonald, the principal and vice-chancellor, will be paid for taking up a board position at a leading engineering firm.

Sir Jim, who makes £303,000 at the university, will become a non-executive board member of the Weir Group from January - a role that normally carries a salary of £55,000.

Gordon Maloney, the president of NUS Scotland, said: "Being a university principal is more than a full-time job and many people will rightly question how much time these types of outside interests take up as well as the pay and benefits they attract."

The university said: "We welcome our staff taking up appointments such as these as it enables the university to stay connected to business, ultimately for the benefit of the economy and academic advancement."

BathImpact meanwhile reports that Dame Glynis Breakwell, the vice-chancellor of the University of Bath, now earns £384,000 - more than 26 times the lowest-paid member of staff at the institution. She is the highest paid vice-chancellor in the country relative to size of university.

Bath defended the pay, saying: "Remuneration packages for vice-chancellors reflect what is required to recruit and retain individuals able to run complex, multi-million pound organisations."

PhD student attacked during row over The Big Bang Theory

A greenkeeper at the world-famous Old Course in St Andrews has been found guilty of assaulting a physics student whom he felt insulted his scientific knowledge.

The Saint reports how Kevin Rundstrom, 25, and Guy Whitworth, 24, had met in a pub and struck up a conversation about science and the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Mr Rundstrom studied plant science at university and Mr Whitworth is a PhD student in laser physics at St Andrews.

The conversation became heated, however, when Mr Rundstrom began to feel that Mr Whitworth was slighting him. Mr Rundstrom was this week found guilty of assault.

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