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Archive for June, 2008

Podcast 60: Professor Geoffrey Alderman on why academic standards are declining.

Today I am talking to Professor Geoffrey Alderman, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History at The University of Buckingham and a former Chairman of the University of London’s academic council

Professor Alderman wrote a fascinating article in The Times on 18th June A grotesque bidding game is undermining university standards” – confronting the issue of degree inflation, the pressure on lecturers to mark examinations leniently and the issue of plagiarism.

Professor Alderman stated in The Times: “Academic standards are in decline in many British universities. Students who would once have been failed their degrees pass, and students who would once have been awarded respectable lower seconds are now awarded upper seconds and even firsts.”

I ask Geoffrey Alderman about the evidence for his statement about declining standards. We also discuss plagiarism, cheating and the rise of essay writing services. For anyone involved in legal or other education, Professor Alderman’s discussion with me is well worth listening to. His views are robust, direct and to the point – refreshingly so.

Listen to the podcast: Professor Geoffrey Alderman on why academic standards are declining.

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Professor Geoffrey Alderman’s website

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A compliment indeed…

What About Clients?… now, calling itself “What About Paris?” is a serious U.S. blog about legal practice – but with a proclivity to go off piste in style. J Dan Hull and his co-bloggers / phantasms do much to promote blawging internationally and have a tolerance, some may say, appetitie, for UK Blawging. Certainly J Dan Hull has an interest in doing Antler dances with Ruthie of Ruthie’s Law – and… who knows what he will do to Geeklawyer when Geeklawyer produces his July 4th version of Blawg Review.

In the meantime… I feel honored (note the American spelling) to be described, this day, as “Albion’s Hunter Thompson”Wikipedia has a view.

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In but a few short days… tennis and strawberry fanciers will gather on hallowed ground to watch another game we invented, and go through between one day to a week and a bit of agony, gasping as Brit wild card players disappear fairly early and pin their hopes on a young Scot. Why we expect, these days, to win any game we invented is one of the great paradoxes of the British character.

Henman Hill will be replaced by Murray Mount. Strawberries will be eaten. The middle classes and corporate hospitality wallahs will gorge themselves on the rain racked, wind blown, tennis part of the summer season – and thoughts of stagflation, recession and doom will be placed on the back of the metaphorical Aga. All will be well. For a few weeks after Wimbledon, the leafy streets of West London (and other parts of the country) will be awash with enthusiastic people carrying tennis rackets, wandering off to play a few sets of an evening and some of those will be making visits to chiropracters and physiotherapists soon after.

It matters not… it is part of the pattern of life…. and it is unlikely that any of our tennis players will be embarrassing themselves or the nation, by engaging in ‘spit-roasting’ and other sexual antics in hotel rooms with young women.

Burnham apologies to Chakrabarti
Culture Secretary, Andrew Burnham, has apologised to Shami Chakrabarti. This is sensible, if rather unfortunate for the litigation side of the legal profession.

Judge tells Brown to delay ratification of EU treaty until result of court challenge

While we work on the theoretical premise that the Lisbon Treaty cannot operate until all 27 members have ratified – and, of course Ireland has said “NO” – we completed our parliamentary process last week – but then, a bolt from the courts. The Mail has the full story. It is too tedious on a Saturday night to quote.

Briefly: Government writes to Court to let them know that Britain is about to ratify. Lord Justice Richards writes back inviting the government to stay ratification until the court hands down judgment on a case brought by a millionaire who objected to the fact that we did not get a referendum. The only interesting thing, from my jaded perspective, was the wonderful statement that … ” If ministers declined to issue such an assurance, the judge said he would be ready to hear an application from Mr Wheeler for an injunction to prevent ratification.”

And now is the Winterton of our discontent… made glorious summer…

Guido Fawkes has an amusing post on the greed of MPs. I quote:

“The mortgage on the Winterton’s Belgravia flat purchased in the mid-nineties was paid by the taxpayers for a decade. However the generosity of the taxpayers wasn’t enough for them… By 2002 they were the owners of a now mortgage free property in very good repair (we paid for the repairs) worth some £700,000, yet the Wintertons had a problem. There was no longer a mortgage to justify a housing allowance, meaning that tens of thousands of pounds that they had been claiming annually would no longer be claimable.”

I was at a bit of a loose end tonight so I popped over to “Lords of The Blog” – a blog from various members of The House of Lords. The Blog does not have the immediate ‘grippability’ of The Apprentice – but it does provide a bit more nourishment than Ant & Dec on a Saturday night or Britain’s Got Talent. I enjoy reading the blog – some rather interesting posts.

Tonight, Lord Norton was posting about the 42 Days detention without trial issue. Lord Norton reminded us that “The House of Lords does not exist to act as a conduit for public opinion, but neither is it oblivious to what people think.” He went on to state that it was unlikely the Lords would get round to dealing with the matter before the summer recess. Fortunately we have David Davis and his by-election against some woman called Lady Madcow to keep the matter before the public. Kelvin “Gotcha” Mackenzie, former editor of The Sun, seems to have dropped out.

Lord Norton ended his post with the statement: “Given that, we could always take the line ‘well, let us pass it and leave it to the courts to deal with’. That would be an abdication of our responsibilities. If we believe it to be unjustified, then we have to vote accordingly. We may be wrong, and unpopular, but unless there is a strong case made, which we have so far not heard, I for one will not be supporting the provision.”

Right… enough for the moment. It is time to reflect… with a glass of Rioja.

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The summer solstice

And so the sun rose over West London, as it does every day, but this morning was different. It is the summer solstice. King Arthur Pendragon lives down the road. I know this – I have a few drinks with him every so often down at The Bollo. Today, King Arthur is, presumably, down at Stonehenge. I am not at Stonehenge. I am in the bunker at my Staterooms, but  I am up and marvelling at the way the sun rises in the sky… It is far too early to have a glass of Rioja and… in any event… turning up at a local pub at 8.30 to watch the All Blacks run riot with England at rugby, roaring on arrival and talking of solstices and druids, may have caused my Haka doing friends to go back to New Zealand.

The day has begun… and there is much to enjoy this day.

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On liberty…..

The Evening Standard reports that “Civil liberties campaigner Shami Chakrabarti threatened to sue Cabinet minister Andy Burnham today over “smears” about her links to Tory David Davis.” Story

Briefly… Burnham, regarded as bringing a degree of humour to what seems to be an otherwise humourless Brown led Labour government, made unfortunate remarks about Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty and David Davis who resigned as an MP and was promptly replaced by WebCameron as shadow home secretary.

The Evening Standard report indicates that – “Culture Secretary Mr Burnham triggered the row last night by claiming that Mr Davis had shared “late night, handwringing, heart-melting phone calls” with Ms Chakrabarti as they opposed the Government’s anti-terror plans.”

Chakrabarti has demanded an apology – read the story for details.

While Burnham is “aghast” – it was both tactless and rather naive to comment in such a way. Labour MP Diane Abbott made the point that if the director of Liberty had been a man, Burnham would probably not have made the remark.

Ridiculous nonsense on the part of a government minister. MPs should leave the one liners to the professionals.

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Off-pissed Update 11.45 pm: This Week, an amusing politics programme, has been delayed until 12.15 because of the f*****g football coverage. Why do we have to have so much bloody football on TV?…. the football hooligans are all out at this time of night keeping the police busy….. I may have to write to the BBC to complain…

The only interesting thing, from my point of view – I can’t stand football – about Euro 2008, is that the Swiss played the Nazi version of the German National Anthem the other night as part of their coverage. Switzerland … nil points…

The football bores are still droning on…. I can’t seem to see Ingerland or any other British team taking part in this competition. Did we vote “NO” to participating? … or were our footballers just F*****g useless and not qualify? I shall consult Google tomorrow and find out the answer.

Further update: It is 12.01 pm. Charon is in the Diary Room over refreshed. Football bores are droning on about dribbling…. some Scots guy has been boring for Edinburgh or Glasgow about the finer points of something. They are not even showing footage of footballers footballing and committing fouls… just bores droning on. Where has that guy with the moustache and big chin gone? You know the one?… Jimmy Hill who looked remarkably like not to be knighted Bruce Forsyth.

“Switzerland 1 – Turkey nil” shouted some hyperventilating commentator… I don’t care…. … drones are back on… I give up…. I’m going to use my remote control and flick over to The Parliament Channel for the next ten minutes …. at least, provided they are showing something from the Commons, I will be able to listen to elected bores droning on…

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Royal Ascot: The Fascinator…

It is quite possible that some readers, following Royal Ascot in the press or on television, may have come across the “Fascinator”.

I have to admit, as I have absolutely no interest in anything running along a track, whether olympic athlete, greyhound or horse, that I had no idea what a “fascinator” is.

I was assisted by The Daily Telegraph: “The general theory is that a fascinator is neither a hat nor a feather but something somewhere in between, which, for the benefit of the more practical- minded, won’t keep your hair dry if it rains.”

This seems an entirely ludicrous, impractical, marvellously eccentric and English garment to buy and wear. So, to assist my readers, I have one – and here it is. If it gets me into Royal Ascot – I should be fine down at The Bollo… n’est ce pas?

I regret that I am unable to do any sensible posts today – apart from a very sensible podcast with Norman Baird (Infra) which I managed to do before my fascinator cut off my blood supply and I broke into my drinks cabinet. .

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Podcast 59: LLB Degree inflation with Norman Baird of QEDLaw

Today I am talking with Norman Baird about his extensive research into LLB degree inflation in recent years.  His findings are published on his QEDlaw blog and are well worth reading if you have an interest in legal education.

Norman is keen to encourage debate and involvement from students, recent graduates and, indeed, practitioners and academics.  He is also more than happy to give advice on how to construct Freedom of Information Act requests – simply email him from his blog

Listen to Podcast 59: LLB degree inflation with Norman Baird of QEDLaw

Visit the QEDlaw blog to read the research results

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