Travel writer, Charlie Dakin, gives a rare account of the unique opportunity of visiting North KoreaWritten by Redbrick on 21st February 2017
Redbrick on the week
Muslim Brotherhood wins election in Egypt The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi has won the presidential election run-off in Egypt, it was announced on Sunday
Muslim Brotherhood wins election in Egypt
The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Mursi has won the presidential election run-off in Egypt, it was announced on Sunday. Mursi was elected with 51.73% of the vote after running against former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, according to the Higher Presidential Election Commission. In a statement, the head judge of the commission, Farouq Sultan, said, ‘The commission applied the law when it looked into the ballots. There is nothing above the law.’ He added that the turnout for the election, which took place last weekend, was 51.58%. The declaration of the election result comes in the midst of protests in Tahrir Square over decrees issued by the country's military that have been viewed as constraints on the presidency.
Education reform plans leaked
Government proposals to scrap GCSEs from 2014 were leaked to the Daily Mail newspaper this week. The leaked information includes a proposal to introduce two sets of examinations, including ‘tougher’ assessments similar to O-levels and a ‘more straightforward’ exam similar to CSEs. Summoned to answer questions in the House of Commons after the information was reported, the Education Secretary Michael Gove did not confirm the leaked plans but said that the structure of examinations in England needed to be changed. Addressing MPs, Gove said that 'there are weaknesses with current GCSEs, which privilege bite-size learning over deep understanding.’ Responding to the proposals, an education spokesperson for the Labour Party said that ‘GCSEs may well need improving, but a two-tier exam system which divides children into winners and losers at 14 is not the answer.’ The proposals have also attracted criticism from the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has commented that ‘this was self-evidently not policy that has been discussed or agreed within the coalition.’
Comedian Carr faces tax criticism
The comedian Jimmy Carr faced criticism this week after it emerged that he participated in a tax avoidance scheme. It is reported that the K2 scheme, from which Carr has now withdrawn, is being used by over 1,000 people and is preventing around £168 million a year from being paid in tax overall. Asked to comment, Prime Minister David Cameron said, ‘Some of these schemes we have seen are quite frankly morally wrong. People work hard, they pay their taxes, they save up to go to one of his shows. They buy the tickets. He is taking the money from those tickets and he, as far as I can see, is putting all of that into some very dodgy tax avoiding schemes.’ Carr later apologised for his actions via Twitter, stating, ‘I'm no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly. Apologies to everyone. Jimmy Carr.’
University wins Times Higher Education award
The University of Birmingham was awarded a Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award for Outstanding Marketing/Communications Team at an awards ceremony in London on Thursday evening. The Times Higher Education website states that the ‘aim of the awards is to recognise excellence and reward extraordinary innovation, teamwork and commercial acumen of UK higher education institutions,’ adding that ‘judges will be looking for outstanding examples of best practice in the 2010-11 academic year.’ The website says that the Outstanding Marketing/Communications Team award ‘aims to recognise outstanding work in marketing and communications departments.’ Also nominated for the award were BPP University College, the London College of Fashion, the University of Nottingham, Queen’s University Belfast and Robert Gordon University. The University of Birmingham was also nominated for the Outstanding International Strategy award, but lost out to the University of East London.
Universities ranked by crime rates
The Complete University Guide published a new league table comparing crime rates at UK universities on Tuesday. In a statement on its website, the Complete University Guide said, ‘Compiled from official police data, the ranking gives the clearest picture possible of the crime rates across 103 universities in England and Wales.’ London universities were found to be located in areas with the highest crime rates overall, but institutions in Birmingham were at the top of the table for robberies. The statement went on to say that ‘Official data for crimes affecting students are not available, so The Complete University Guide has selected three crimes as most relevant to students, namely burglary, robbery and violent crime. The ranking is based on the cumulative rate of all three crimes.’ The founder of the Complete University Guide, Dr Bernard Kingston, said, ‘Quality of tuition and the prospects for employment after graduation are key elements in choosing a university course, but it is important not to overlook other aspects of the environment in which the student will be living for three or more years.’
Miliband reveals new immigration policy
The leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband announced changes in his party’s immigration policy in a speech on Friday. Addressing the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank, Miliband said, ‘By focusing exclusively on immigration's impact on growth, we lost sight of who was benefiting from that growth - whose living standards were being squeezed. We became disconnected from the concerns of working people.’ Miliband went on to propose measures that would discourage businesses from only employing overseas workers. However, the immigration minister Damian Green has commented that, 'Until Ed Miliband supports the government's measures to cut and control immigration, Labour will have no credibility at all,’ adding that, ‘Under his leadership, Labour have opposed our aim to get annual net migration down to the tens of thousands, and they have opposed the cap on economic migration, our changes to student visas and our reforms to family visas.’
NatWest experiences technical faults
NatWest branches suffered technical problems this week that prevented some customers from accessing their accounts. In a statement posted on the NatWest website on Friday, the RBS Group Chief Executive Stephen Hester said, 'The problems of the past few days have caused disruption and inconvenience for our customers as well as for many customers of other banks. I am very sorry for the difficulties people are experiencing. Our customers rely on us day in and day out to get things right, and on this occasion we have let them down. This should not have happened.’ On Saturday, Susan Allen, the director of customer services at the RBS group, said that the technical issues had been resolved, but added that many bank accounts still needed to be updated.
Breivik trial concludes
The trial of Anders Behring Breivik came to an end in Norway on Friday. Breivik, aged 33, admits to bombing government buildings in the Norwegian capital Oslo, before shooting young supporters of the Labour Party at a youth camp on the island of Utoeya in July last year. Seventy-seven people were killed in the attacks and a further 242 others were injured. The final day of the trial saw Breivik take to the stand and speak about his actions, prompting around 30 people to leave the courtroom in protest. Christian Bjelland, a member of a support group for victims of the attacks, said, 'He has a right to talk - we have no duty to listen.’