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In the face of limited financial resources, universities across the world are increasingly seeking new ways of cultivating the loyalties – and the donations – of their alumni. By employing social media, offering ongoing careers services, organising social events, and even selling coffins, universities hope to build a relationship with their students that will last a lifetime.

But how far are universities really prepared to go? The relationship between Dalhousie University and its alumni in the nineteenth century points to an intimate embrace that many of today’s vice-chancellors might be less than willing to countenance … read the rest of this post at

In 1931 Arthur Currie, the Principal of McGill University in Montreal, dismissed sabbatical leave as unnecessary and extravagant.

‘Seeing that our summer vacations are so long,’ he wrote, ‘the need of a sabbatical year does not arise to the same extent as in those institutions where the terms are spread more generally over the whole year. With us … a professor is given a four months’ vacation. I notice that many of them spend it teaching in summer schools – or in fishing, or enjoying themselves in some other way.’

Currie – who before his distinguished career as a General in the First World War had been a businessman in British Columbia – thought such activity profligate. ‘It would be a farce to give such men one full year’s leave of absence in every seven years’, he concluded.

Yet in 1931 Currie was increasingly alone in holding this opinion… read the rest of this post at

Internationalisation is something higher education institutions have been engaging in since the 1970s. Initially it took the form of development schemes, but as Hans de Wit has recently pointed out, in the 1980s “the direction shifted from aid to trade”, with universities in the UK and Australia in particular beginning to charge full-cost fees to foreign students. Since the 1990s internationalisation has undergone yet another revolution, with universities increasingly offering education offshore.

The merits of this process have been much debated, but last week I was at the Humboldt Centre for British Studies in Berlin to attend a workshop on the changing role of the university, and among the papers presented was one by Johanna Waters (Birmingham) and Maggi Leung (Utrecht) that cast new light on the issue. In a qualitative study, they interviewed both the providers of British degrees in Hong Kong and also the students who undertake them. Their findings suggest that British universities would be wise to pay more attention to the geographically specific and long-term consequences of their educational offerings…. read the rest of this post at

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