News in brief - 27 June 2013

June 27, 2013

International competition
‘Soft power’ diverted East

The British Council has warned that China and other Asian nations are racing ahead of the West in their efforts to bring cultural “soft power” to bear through educational missions to other countries. In a report, Influence and Attraction: Culture and the Race for Soft Power in the 21st Century, the organisation notes that by August 2011, China had established 353 Confucius Institutes, which offer Chinese language and cultural programmes, mostly in universities. India, South Korea and Taiwan are also attempting to boost their soft power through a global network of cultural centres, it adds. Yet in the West, budgets have come under pressure in the wake of the financial crisis and some cultural organisations, including the British Council, have had their funding cut, the report warns.

European Union
Teach them how to teach

University lecturers should be required to take teacher training classes, according to a European Union commission on higher education led by Mary McAleese, former president of the Republic of Ireland. The call for mandatory teaching certificates is one of 16 recommendations made by the EU high-level group, set up last year to examine different aspects of higher education. Other recommendations in the group’s report, published on 18 June, include asking member states to lay out teacher training practices when they apply for EU structural funds and the creation of a European academy of teaching and learning. “Higher education teaching staff have to be given the training and support they need to do an excellent job,” said Professor McAleese, a former pro vice-chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast.

Cash accelerator

The South East Physics Network has received a £13 million cash boost to fund a second development phase. The network, set up in 2008, is made up of six physics departments affiliated with universities in south-east England: Queen Mary, University of London, Royal Holloway, University of London and the universities of Kent, Southampton, Surrey and Sussex. The additional funding, provided by the parent institutions and topped up by a £2.75 million grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, will help the network accommodate two new members – The Open University and the University of Hertfordshire – that will join in August. The cash will also fund the establishment of a regional postgraduate training programme, as well as outreach and widening-participation schemes.

Research outcomes outlined

The open-access biomedical archive Europe PubMed Central has joined with Researchfish, an online system for tracking and reporting on research outcomes, to connect research articles and grant listings with data on their impact. The idea behind the collaboration is to enable members of the public, researchers and funders to track outcomes and discover which bodies have backed specific articles. The move is also intended to help funders to plan research spending more effectively and highlight the value of the work they support. The information will be publicly available and searchable, with the collaboration so far leading to the pairing of more than 80,000 grants and articles.

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