On the insistence of university authorities, freshers’ week will be an online affair this year. But if this autumn is not much fun for students, it will be a lot less fun still for university staff whose admissions system has just been thrown into turmoil by the A-level results debacle. While some institutions now face overcrowding, others face financial ruin.
When the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced on Monday that he was abandoning the algorithm devised by Ofqual to moderate A-level results and would allow candidates to keep the grades estimated by their teachers, students were relieved — many more will, after all, now be able to go to their favoured university.
Before the exams meltdown, universities were losing both friends and influence on the Tory benches. They were deemed to be on the ‘wrong’ side of the referendum and then enemy combatants in a low-level culture war. The ministerial message to young people was shifting from the sensible ‘you don’t have to do a degree’ to the openly discouraging ‘too many go to university’. The high watermark of uni-phobia perhaps came last month when cabinet ministers denounced Tony Blair’s target of 50 per cent of children going to university and warned that any institution finding itself in financial difficulties would be ‘restructured’.
Last Friday the UN Security Council rejected any extension of the arms embargo on Iran. That embargo — imposed in 2007 — began to get phased out after the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. But a ‘snapback’ provision was put in place intended to allow the return of åall such sanctions should Iran violate the terms of the deal. Iran has been violating those terms for some time, but on Friday, when the United States hoped that its allies would join it in deploring this fact, only the Dominican Republic voted with it.
My father’s faith in communism evaporated during a summer of backbreaking work at the docks on the Black Sea. Like all good young Bulgarian communists, he had to undertake a few months of hard labour during university holidays, unloading cargo before going back to his studies. He saw then the way the economy worked — or didn’t. It was all about gaming the system. The best jobs and most lucrative contracts went to party members and stooges.
The verdict is in: hooray for beavers! The rodents that once roamed the wetlands of Britain, hunted to extinction in the 16th century, have been gradually returning to our rivers for some years now.
The first, discovered on the River Tay in 2006, had either escaped from enclosures or, more probably, were deliberately (and illegally) released into the wild. In England the first were found on the River Otter in Devon in 2013.
This month the global media marked the 75th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The cities’ destructions were momentous indeed, but the coverage has squeezed out other memories of the Pacific War. Who remembers Japan’s genocidal campaign in China that killed more than 20 million people — thousands of them by poison gas and canisters containing plague and typhus? Or the murder of 35 per cent of the 200,000 soldiers and civilians held in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps that meted out unspeakable cruelties? Certainly not the BBC, which failed to put Hiroshima and Nagasaki into any kind of historic context.
From the start, it was obvious that lockdown would have a devastating effect on domestic abuse victims, although it wasn’t possible to know just how bad it would be. But the picture is becoming clearer now. Abused women have been telling their stories: a survey this week by the charity Women’s Aid found almost two-thirds of victims said the abuse worsened during lockdown. In a BBC documentary this week a victim recounted how her abuser, after watching Boris Johnson’s televised announcement of lockdown restrictions, turned to her and said: ‘Let the games begin.
Readers may recall Matthew Parris’s Spectator article from August last year, ‘Who’s to blame for my terrible journey?’ From 2016 onwards, many rail operating companies, including Thameslink and GWR, began introducing new carriages with ‘ironing board’ seat designs. ‘My buttocks ache at the very recollection,’ Matthew complained. He demanded to know who was responsible and offered £200 to any reader who could produce the relevant names.
Every time I read that Britain’s anti-coronavirus measures are being jeopardised by a ‘small minority of senseless individuals’ holding illegal raves, my heart soars. Maybe there’s hope for the youth after all!
I’d been beginning to wonder. In my experience, kids of about university age have been priggish and obedient about the government’s rules during lockdown. ‘Why can’t they just get off their faces on drink, drugs and repetitive beats, like my generation did at that age?’ I’ve often mused.