News in brief

February 21, 2013

Global University Summit
Leaders shall speak unto leaders

“Universities and economic growth” is the theme of this year’s Global University Summit, which will bring together politicians, business leaders and university vice-chancellors in a bid to influence international policymakers. The invitation-only event, organised by the University of Warwick, is held in advance of the annual G8 conference, which this year takes place in June in Northern Ireland. Delegates will debate and agree a formal declaration to be submitted to the G8, giving the views of research-intensive universities from across the world. Times Higher Education is the official media partner for the summit, which will be held from 28 to 30 May in central London.

Medical Research Council
Net gains in Researchfish access

The Medical Research Council has provided a £1 million grant to allow medical research charities free access to the research outcomes system Researchfish. The system, which is normally subscription-based, enables researchers to log the outcomes of their work and funders to track the impact of their investments. Thanks to the grant, members of the Association of Medical Research Charities not already using the service, which was developed out of the MRC’s e-Val system, will be able to access it for up to three years free of charge. Researchfish is already used by the MRC, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and a number of UK universities.

A-level review
Belated rebuff from research elite

The Russell Group of elite universities has declared its opposition to plans by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to separate AS levels from A levels. The move could dissuade disadvantaged students from applying to more selective courses, said the group, which represents 24 research- intensive universities. In a statement published on 14 February, Wendy Piatt, the group’s director general, said: “Whilst we have welcomed the government’s review of the modular structure of the A-level, we do not believe this need be extended to the complete removal of the AS examination from the A-level.” The belated natured of its criticism - three weeks after the plans were strongly criticised by all other university mission groups, including Universities UK - may point to divisions within the Russell Group over the issue of exam reform.

Tuition fee reforms
It’ll be expensive all round

The short-term economic benefits from changes to higher education funding in England will be outweighed 6.5 times over by the long-term costs of the system, according to figures published by Million+. The group of newer universities published research by London Economics, which was commissioned by the government to carry out estimates on the economic returns of higher education courses at the time of the 2011 higher education White Paper. The analysis points to the higher write-off rate for the new loans (which it estimates to rise to almost 40 per cent), lower tax revenues from decreased undergraduate and postgraduate numbers, as well as the inflationary impact of higher fees (included in the basket of goods used to calculate inflation) on pensions and even stamps. Gavan Conlon of London Economics said the government “must compare the total costs and benefits of changes to the higher education funding system, and at the moment the costs appear to substantially outweigh the benefits”.

Online now

Arguments that the University of Leicester “milked” the discovery of the grave of Richard III were dismissed by online readers. “Any university would be nuts to give up the chance for that kind of publicity, especially when there’s such competition for resources in a context of declining public funding,” Herbert said. John added: “When David Willetts goes in to bat to defend the higher education budget at the next Comprehensive Spending Review, whether some like it or not, he’ll be clutching examples like Leicester’s work as evidence that HE makes a powerful difference to the ‘real’ world.”

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