News in brief – 11 June 2015

UK higher education round-up and highlights from the Twittersphere

June 11, 2015
Clock hands and pound coins counting time

Treatment of temporary staff

TeachHigher stops before it starts

The University of Warwick has scrapped controversial plans to use a scheme called TeachHigher to employ hourly paid teaching and research staff. In a message on the university’s website posted on 2 June, Warwick said that the “ongoing scrutiny of TeachHigher has become a distraction and TeachHigher should be disbanded”. The announcement came amid growing opposition to the planned academic services department at Warwick, which was initiated to establish a more consistent approach to the employment of hourly paid staff who work in different departments. Trade unions, student groups and postgraduates have raised concerns about the scheme, which they claimed would leave many staff on less favourable terms and conditions and without guaranteed hours.


Animal testing

Relief as EU blocks ban

Scientists have welcomed the decision by the European Commission to reject a move by activists to ban animal research in the European Union. A European Citizens’ Initiative calling for a ban reached the threshold of a million signatures from at least a quarter of member states that obliges the Commission to consider and respond to it. In a press release, Jyrki Katainen, the EU’s vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said that the Commission also aspired to phase out animal testing, and he committed to several new measures to speed it up. But while animal testing was already in decline, he said that a complete ban “would be premature” and risked “chasing out biomedical research from Europe”.


Financial support for students

Offa to study cash ‘benefits’

The Office for Fair Access is to review the extent to which poorer students benefit from financial support while at university. The access watchdog has commissioned a research team led by Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Education and Inclusion Research to look at how, and to what extent, financial support helps students to stay on their courses, achieve a good degree and gain a graduate job. Researchers on the team, which includes staff from the universities of Oxford, Bedfordshire and the West of England, King’s College London and the National Union of Students, will develop a set of evaluation measures and survey questions that will be used in a pilot study at different institutions throughout 2016‑17. The project’s findings will be used by Offa to inform its guidance to universities as it prepares access agreements from 2017‑18 onwards.


Conservatoires

Entries up on record applications

About 2,000 students entered specialist music, drama and dance schools this year – a 10 per cent increase, Ucas, the admissions body, has said. A quarter of a record 7,985 students who applied to the UK’s eight conservatoires in 2014-15 gained a place, according to the Ucas Conservatoires End of Cycle Report 2014 published on 4 June. Music courses have the highest number of applications and entries, comprising nearly half of all conservatoire places (925 in total), the report says. But drama and dance courses are more competitive, with only one in 20 applicants to drama courses placed, while one in 12 applicants to dance courses was admitted. The report also notes that despite an increase in applications from poorer students, those from the poorest fifth in society are still six times less likely to gain a conservatoire place thanthose from the most advantaged 20 per cent.


Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Last week’s story on the finding from the Hepi/HEA Student Academic Experience Survey 2015 that students valued lecturers with formal teaching qualifications more than those who were research-active sparked debate. @hkeil07 said university lecturers with formal teaching qualifications were “a hint of things to come”, while @CaseyBrienza reflected fears that such findings would make the measurement of teaching performance more likely. “Ugh. I think a REF for teaching is imminent in the UK,” she posted. Meanwhile, @SFD85 focused his displeasure on the students answering the question. “In other words, 83% of students surveyed didn’t understand the point of university,” he tweeted.

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