Disabled Students’ Allowance
Benefit changes to go ahead
The government will not halt planned changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance as it will “improve the levels of support overall” for students, according to universities and science minister Jo Johnson. The changes, which would make universities take greater responsibility for the costs of the DSA, were initially planned for 2015-16. But the proposals drew criticism and the government later said that the bulk of changes would be postponed to 2016-17. Speaking at an adjournment debate about mental health and universities at Westminster Hall on 11 June, Mr Johnson said there would be new guidelines “intended to improve the levels of support overall, including for students in receipt of DSA and disabled students who do not claim it”.
Teaching and learning awards
Laurels for lecturers
Fifty-five people working in universities have been named as recipients of the sector’s top honour for teaching and learning. Staff from disciplines including biomedical ethics, chemistry, film production and linguistics, and learning enhancement specialists, are among those who have become national teaching fellows, according to the Higher Education Academy, which announced the honours on 11 June. Among those to receive the award are Momna Hejmadi, senior teaching fellow in the University of Bath’s department of biology and biochemistry, who led the institution’s first massive open online course on cancer, and June Jones, senior lecturer in biomedical ethics at the University of Birmingham, who has been involved in the repatriation of ancient Maori and North American remains. The awards will be presented at Liverpool Cathedral in October.
Northern Ireland fees consultation
Postgraduate loans mooted
Northern Ireland’s executive is considering the introduction of loan schemes for postgraduate and part-time students. A consultation that began on 9 June says one option is to offer a £10,000 loan to Northern Ireland-domiciled students on taught postgraduate courses, to mirror the finance available in England from 2016-17. The consultation says the introduction of a £25,000 loan for postgraduate research students is also being considered, again mirroring proposals in England. For part-time students in Northern Ireland, who currently have no access to the student loan system, one option under consideration is the replacement of fee grants with a tuition-fee loan available to students taking “designated courses of study” at universities in the UK and Ireland.
Research Councils UK awards
Innovations with impact
Seven universities have been shortlisted for the 2015 Research Councils UK and PraxisUnico Impact Awards for Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation. The awards recognise professionals working in the fields who have excelled at helping research to have impact. The universities of Strathclyde, Leicester and Coventry have been shortlisted in the Contribution to Business category. Strathclyde is shortlisted again in the Contribution to Society category alongside Aberystwyth University and Public Health England. Meanwhile, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Lancaster University – with partners the University of Liverpool and management consultants Inventya – and Isis Innovation have been shortlisted in the Outstanding Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation Initiative category. Winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 15 September.
Last week’s lead news story suggesting that one in six UK universities may have at least some grant income targets for individuals got a lot of traction on Twitter. In reply to the main finding, @david_colquhoun tweeted “That’s corrupting science & defrauding taxpayer” while @GalenOfPergamum pointed out that it was “Nice to secure grants, but objectively difficult to succeed!” Many questioned whether the figure was an underestimate, with @proftracypalmer suggesting it would be good “to ask what goals are set for new lecturers to meet probation. Prob will include grant target”.