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Students inspired by Rhodes Must Fall campaign demand Bristol University change name of Wills Tower over ‘slave trade’ links

Students at the University of Bristol have demanded that one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Wills Memorial Tower, be renamed due to its alleged links to the slave trade, it has emerged.

The Tower, the protesters allege, “glorifies” the slave trade because its namesake, Henry Overton Wills III, Bristol’s founding chancellor, used profits from his investments in the tobacco trade to fund the university’s royal charter.

Inspired by the controversial Rhodes Must Fall campaign at Oriel College, Oxford, the students claim that the building undermines the university’s commitment to “diversity and inclusivity” and symbolises a “toleration” of former slave masters.Should the university’s management bow to their demands, the protesters demand that the Wills Tower be renamed after “somebody the entire university population can be proud of.”

Launching a petition on Monday, the students add: “Every student who first attends Bristol cannot help but notice the grand prominence of Wills Memorial Building at the top of Park Street.

“However, little know the history behind the name – enter Henry Overton Wills III. As honoured within the building itself, H.O. Wills is known best for being the first chancellor of the university; less people are aware that this position was granted to him after financing the university with slave-profited money.

“While we begrudgingly understand that Bristol has a historical connection to the slave trade, we find it hard to accept that the university still glorifies an individual who advocated such an immoral practice.

“We also find it ironic that the building is often the setting for events hosting some of this century’s most progressive thinkers.”Known as one of the last great Gothic buildings to be built in England, the grade II listed building was designed by the architect Sir George Oatley and was opened in 1925 as a memorial to Wills by his sons George and Henry Wills IV.

It is considered by many to be synonymous with the university and remains the centrepiece of the university precinct, housing both the School of Law and the Department of Earth Sciences.

Born in 1828, Wills was a British businessman who entered into his family’s firm, W.D. & H.O. Wills, between 1846 and 1880, accruing a vast fortune through the company’s investment in its tobacco arm.

The company later merged with other firms in 1901 to become Imperial Tobacco, now the fourth-largest cigarette company in the world.

The students’ claims that Wills’ riches were derived from his association to the slave trade are fiercely disputed by Imperial Tobacco, which say there is no evidence of the company’s involvement in slavery.

However, it is believed that the Bristolian may have continued to import slave-grown tobacco from American plantations up until the American Civil War in 1865 – more than three decades after slavery was abolished under the 1833 Abolition Act.

Wills later produced a letter in 1908, aged 80, promising £100,000 to found a university for Bristol. The university was granted a royal charter the following year, with Wills announced as its first chancellor.

The Wills Tower was commissioned in 1912, a year after his death, and was funded by his sons through the proceeds of the company.

Responding to the petition, a spokesman for the university said that it would be “disingenuous” to “cover up” the university’s historical relationship with the Wills family, adding that it was important to be “open and reflective about our history”.

However, they added that the university had only learnt of the petition on Monday, and was still in the process of considering the students’ demands.

“‘In 1908, a substantial gift of £100,000 from Henry Overton Wills III helped to establish our University, and a year later, partly as a consequence of that gift, we were awarded a Royal Charter,” he added.

“We have never sought to hide our association with the Wills family. We believe that it is important to be open and reflective about our history, and the city’s historical connection to the slave trade.

“To us, it would seem disingenuous to seek to deny or cover up our relationship with the family. We would welcome the chance to discuss this further with the organisers of this petition.”

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Medical students at University of Glasgow told to resit exam after ‘collusion uncovered’

spiring doctors at one of Britain’s oldest medical schools have been embroiled in a cheating row after it emerged students used social media to leak details of exams.

More than 270 final-year medics at the University of Glasgow were yesterday told they would have to retake their end-of-course practical assessment because of online “collusion”.

The Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) tests students’ ability to handle working on a hospital ward and involves an intense series of 10-minute challenges examining and diagnosing real patients, as well as studying data such as x-rays and test results.Yesterday the medical school revealed a “small number” of students used Facebook, Whatsapp and the university’s own messaging platform to tip off colleagues who were yet to take the assessment about the scenarios they would face.

Two students are currently facing disciplinary and fitness to practice procedures, which could mean they are barred from becoming doctors, while more are under investigation.

Course leaders admit they cannot know how many medics took advantage of the online information, so they are forcing the whole cohort to retake the exam in May.

They said the monitoring of social media sites was being stepped up to prevent a repeat of the apparent cheating.

A spokesman for the university said the decision to declare the results of the previous exam void was taken “In an abundance of caution to ensure that the skills of our students are rigorously and fairly tested before they graduate in medicine”.

Passing OSCE alongside several written exams is the point at which medical students become junior doctors and begin practising in hospitals under the supervision of consultants.

Professor Matthew Walters, head of the school of medicine, dentistry and nursing, said: “We’re uncomfortable with the prospect of students with detailed prior knowledge.

“It undermines the quality of the exam.”

He added that re-staging the assessment, which takes place over a whole week, would require “considerable effort”.

He said there was a “shared sense of disappointment” among students and staff when they were told the news, but also a joint understanding of the importance of having a trusted assessment.

“The class essentially recognise and understand the need for a robust and thorough assessment prior to their graduation and are accepting of the decision to rerun the whole exam,” he said.

Last year it was revealed that thousands of students nurses had been disciplined for cheating over the previous three years for collusion in exams, as well as other offences such as plagiarism and impersonating other students.

Experts warned that a “first-class” nursing essay could be purchased online for less than £200.

A multi-ethnic group of college age students are sitting in a lecture hall and are reading a passage from their textbook. One woman is smiling and looking at the camera.

4 Things to Know About Attending a Tuition-Free University in Europe

Some public universities in European countries – including France, Germany and Norway – charge students little to nothing for tuition, regardless of nationality.

This may be hard to believe for students and parents who are more used to hearing about the increasingly high cost of college in the U.S. But students should be aware that the undergraduate student experience at free or very low-cost public universities in Europe, in many ways, differs from a typical U.S. undergrad experience.

“You just have to be prepared that it’s like real life – it’s not college life,” says Colin Cole, a U.S. student working toward a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering at RWTH Aachen University in Germany.
As someone who’s spent time at a public U.S. university in the Midwest and a tuition-free public university in Germany, Cole says his German student experience is more like having a day job. He says he has to be more independent, which has its pros and cons.

For prospective international students interested in avoiding tuition, here are four facts to help create a more complete picture of what it’s like to attend a European university.

1. Proof of financial resources is still required. Students need to show they have enough money to cover their living expenses, says Jennifer Viemont, founder of Beyond the States, a U.S.-based college advising service for students interested in English-taught European programs.

“Just because these schools are free doesn’t mean that you can go over there without a cent in your pocket,” she says.

Students must show they have sufficient financial resources – the amount required differs between countries – in order to gain admission to some universities, and obtain visas or residence permits for certain countries.
There’s more than one way to do this. Parents can submit documents confirming their financial resources and support for their students, and submitting proof of scholarships is another option for some countries.
University and embassy websites have more information about this process and exactly how much money students need to have in the bank.
2. English-taught programs are less common at the bachelor’s level. This means international students may have to spend time learning the local language before they can begin the tuition-free European undergrad program of their choice.

That’s what Calahan Guidolin, an international undergraduate student at Norway’s University of Oslo, did.

The University of Oslo does not charge tuition, but all of its bachelor’s programs are taught in Norwegian.
Guidolin, who hails from Canada, said via email that he spent his first year at the university just learning Norwegian, adding a year to his undergrad experience in a country with high living expenses. He’s now working toward a degree in history.

3. Undergraduate programs are shorter and more focused. European bachelor’s degree programs are typically three years long, as opposed to U.S. undergrad programs, which last four years.

Degree programs in this region of the world are generally very focused on one particular area of study, says Jay Malone, founder of Eight Hours and Change, a U.S.-based service that advises students who want to study in Europe. As a result, these programs don’t have a lot of the electives and general education requirements that U.S. programs do, he says.

4. The grading system may be different. A big part of the difference between the student experience at a tuition-free European university and a tuition-charging U.S. university lies in the expectations that are placed on students, Malone says. Students have to be more independent and self-motivated to succeed at schools in countries such as Germany.
At European universities, sometimes the sole factor that determines a course grade is a student’s performance on a final exam. Contrast this with U.S. universities, where course grades tend to incorporate factors such as attendance, participation in class discussions and various homework assignments given throughout the semester.
Cole, the international student in Germany, says it’s totally up to students how much – or how little – academic work they want to do during the semester. All that matters in terms of grading is whether they pass the final.
But just because European universities may not offer students the sort of academic structure U.S. schools often do, doesn’t mean there aren’t student services available.
Malone says prospective international students should make sure to research the international offices at universities they are considering, since these offices can be key resources for foreign students.
“You can really see a difference in student experience based on the quality of the international office,” he says. “It makes a huge difference.”

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