Student news round-up: Student deaths spur Durham to tackle alcohol culture


Elliot Davies
Tuesday 10 February 2015 13:58 GMT

Student deaths spur Durham to tackle alcohol culture

Durham University has announced a £50,000 campaign to "promote positive drinking behaviours" after a third student was killed by falling into the River Wear, Palatinate reports.

The campaign, which will be run by the student union and funded by the local council, follows the death of Euan Coulthard in January. Luke Pearce died last year, and Sope Peters was killed in 2013. Another student was recently rescued from the river.

The university also plans to impose a minimum pricing policy on alcoholic drinks in the college bars, and staff will be told not to serve drinks to visibly drunk students.

Durham Police, who have rejected calls for more fences and police patrols along the river, will give a series of talks about how to stay safe during nights out. Mike Barton, the chief constable, said students needed to take "personal responsibility" to avoid becoming "paralytically drunk".

Professor Ray Hudson, the university's acting vice-chancellor, said: "Durham’s senior management is treating the matters of student safety and excessive alcohol consumption with the utmost seriousness. Addressing the alcohol culture which has developed in our society as a whole will involve a major shift in attitudes."

Sussex spends £260k on rejected development plan

The University of Sussex has spent more than £264,294 on architects and legal fees as part of a “campus masterplan” that was rejected by the local council, according to The Badger.

A Freedom of Information request reportedly found that the university had spent £102,594 on lawyers' fees, including for legal advice after Brighton and Hove City Council rejected the £500 million expansion plan last June. The university also paid an architects' firm £161,700 over three years to draw up plans and produce a physical model of the campus. £12,000 was spent on a five-minute CGI video of the expansion.

Michael Segalov, the student union communications officer, said: "This is a huge amount of money to be spent on legal fees and architects, which could have been better used improving teaching and learning, scholarships, or paying the lowest-paid staff a fairer wage."

The university, which is appealing the council's decision, said: "The Campus Masterplan is a key component of the university’s longterm strategy. As part of this, we want to ensure that we have the best possible services and facilities for our students and staff and to accommodate any future growth."

Exeter expenses exposed

Staff at the University of Exeter claimed £3 million in expenses during 2014, with nine of the highest earners claiming an average of almost £6,800 each, Exeposé reports.

More than £10,000 was spent on 112 first-class rail journeys, despite a university policy encouraging standard-class travel, while other claims included £2,513 for a business class flight and £1,494 for "equipment".

Some of the claims, made by staff earning more than £140,000 a year, were as small as 68p for "mileage" and 87p for "subsistence".

A spokesperson said: "The university employs a robust policy to govern expenditure by all staff members, which ensures that any expenses incurred while conducting business on behalf of the University are both justified and proportionate. All claims are subject to stringent checks before they are reimbursed and a rigorous approval process including scrutiny from line management, the accounts department and the finance team."

"While the vast majority of travel conducted by staff members is in standard class, there may be some occasions where first class travel is required to allow for a more confidential working environment while travelling. However, the amount of first class travel remains minimal in comparison to standard class travel across the University."

At City University in London, meanwhile, The Square reports that the vice-chancellor claimed thousands of pounds in 2013-14 for short taxi rides and hundreds more for nights in luxury hotels. The university defended the expenses as necessary for "university business".

St Andrews student accommodation to cost £10,000 a year

A new private hall of residence at the University of St Andrews will cost more than £10,000-a-year for a self-catered room, according to The Saint.

Ayton House, which is owned by the Student Housing Company, will cost £210 per week on a £51-week lease for the 'super deluxe suite', or £165 a week - totalling £8,415 over the year - for the cheapest standard ensuite option. The prices include bills but no meals.

The most expensive option offered by the university comes to £7,423 for a catered ensuite room.

Pat Mathewson, the president of the St Andrews student union, said: "Frankly, we believe they’ve misjudged the market they are entering into. If they hope to live up to their name, the Student Housing Company should take on board the concerns of the community it aims to join."

The chairman of the Student Housing Company, Bob Crompton, told the paper he has "a long waiting list for viewings" and that "the students really seem to appreciate the value of fully inclusive bills".

Exam chaos at the University of Sheffield

Sheffield students have been left in disarray after multiple departments set exams that were incorrect or impossible to complete, Forge Press reports.

The French department reportedly had to apologise to second-year students after it voided their exam paper, which contained errors and untaught material, blaming an "administrative error". The exam could not be rescheduled, so students will submit a coursework assessment instead.

"Unfortunately the second-year French language exam contained the wrong question and dossier for the composition part of the exam," said Dr David McCallam, the head of the department. "We understand this is deeply frustrating for our students so we have since put procedures in place to ensure this kind of mistake does not happen again."

In addition, one class of economics students claimed their exam paper included topics they hadn't been taught, with 90 per cent of the group signing a petition to have the university investigate. The head of the economics department, Professor Andy Dickerson, defended the paper, saying: "All questions were based on topics taught in the course and for which further reading was provided."

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