News in brief – 25 June 2015

UK higher education round-up and highlights from the Twittersphere

June 25, 2015
A circle of grey chairs with one red chair in the centre
Source: iStock

BIS committee

Who is in the hot seat?

The new chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has been named as Labour MP Iain Wright. The committee scrutinises the work of the department responsible for higher education and research. Mr Wright, the MP for Hartlepool, outpolled Labour colleague Adrian Bailey, the previous chair of the committee, by 281 votes to 247 in the second round of voting among MPs. Nicola Blackwood, the Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, has been elected chair of the Science and Technology Committee. The music graduate succeeds former Labour MP Andrew Miller. Neil Carmichael, the Conservative MP for Stroud, is the new chair of the Education Committee.

Copyright law

Amber light on data mining

The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee has tentatively endorsed a reform of European copyright law that would make it easier for researchers to carry out text and data mining. Currently, in all European Union countries except the UK, researchers have to seek permission from publishers to data mine their journals even for non-commercial purposes. The parliamentary committee last week adopted a non-binding report to the European Commission accepting the need “to properly assess the enablement of” text and data mining. However, Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities, lamented that the report foresees an array of opt-outs and limitations to any law change. “Anything less than mandatory exceptions at the EU level will just preserve the current status quo of legal uncertainty and fragmentation,” he said.

State schools

More Oxbridge alumni among staff

The number of Oxbridge graduates teaching in state schools has doubled in the past decade, according to research, but independent school teachers are still three times more likely to hold an Oxbridge degree. The Teaching by Degrees report, issued by the Sutton Trust, found that the number of Oxford or Cambridge graduates teaching in state schools had risen from 5,000 to just under 11,000 since 2003. But despite the encouraging figures, the research showed that approximately 5 per cent of state secondary school teachers with subject degrees received these from either Oxford or Cambridge, while in the independent sector the figure was closer to 17 per cent. It also found that secondary independent school teachers are more likely to have a postgraduate degree related to the subject they teach and that nearly one in 15 teachers in private schools holds a PhD, compared with one in 40 in state institutions.

Graduate jobs

Not enough skills to fill the gaps

About two-thirds of companies have unfilled graduate vacancies, with nearly a third claiming that candidates lack specific skills, a poll has found. According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, employers with vacancies have an average of 45 unfilled posts for 2015, with two-thirds of companies reporting at least one available graduate role. Some 58 per cent of the 72 employers polled by the Association of Graduate Recruiters reported an increase in graduate hiring targets this year, suggesting a strong job market and going some way to explaining the number of unfilled posts. Most of the vacancies reported were in accountancy (27 per cent), followed by IT (26 per cent) and electrical/electronic engineering (20 per cent).

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Last week’s lead news story on the higher education ombudsman’s call for universities to do more to tackle “lad culture” on campus prompted various comments on Twitter. @baileys72 said that the comments by Rob Behrens, chief executive of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, reflected “a trend painfully documented” in the @EverydaySexism book, part of the project to collect examples of sexism experienced by women. @shahbanaziz said that it was a “great article” and “as always brilliant work by @OIAChiefExec and the @oiahe team!” But the reaction of @dukemedia_SPORT was a little more circumspect. “The war on men and masculinity in UK universities continues,” he tweeted.

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