News in brief

April 25, 2013


And NovoEd makes three

A third massive open online course platform developed by academics from Stanford University has been launched. Following in the footsteps of Coursera and Udacity, NovoEd, which went live on 15 April, will initially offer seven Stanford courses to the public and an additional 10 exclusively to students enrolled at the university. The platform was originally known as Venture Lab and offered its first course last year. However, after securing private financial backing from venture capitalists, it was rebranded and relaunched. Its developers claim that its Moocs give students the tools necessary to form teams, allowing a more collaborative approach to study than competing platforms.


Dynamic duo visit Latin quarter

Business secretary Vince Cable promoted UK universities on a visit to Brazil while David Willetts, the universities and science minister, had the same aim in mind on a trip to Colombia and Mexico. Mr Cable undertook a primarily business-focused three-day trip to the South American giant this week, but the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said he would also highlight the success of the Science without Borders programme, “the first large-scale student mobility programme operated in the UK”. Of his trip, Mr Willetts said: “Attracting more students from emerging economies [such as] Mexico and Colombia will lead to other forms of engagement between them and the UK in the future, such as study exchanges…and research collaborations.”

Knowledge transfer

Scientific growth areas

Ensuring that knowledge translates into growth is among the priorities that Sir Mark Walport, the government’s incoming chief scientific adviser, has set himself over the next five years. In his first major speech since taking up the role, the former director of the Wellcome Trust said that the UK needed to break down existing barriers to growth and ensure that the right incentives were in place. “For example, I’m not sure the useful metric is the number of spin-out companies from universities,” he told the Centre for Science and Policy’s annual conference, held in London on 18 April. “The metric surely has to be the number of successful spin-out companies.” Sir Mark added that intellectual property needed to be protected, “but we mustn’t overvalue it and in doing so prevent its exploitation”.

University rankings

America first, second, third…

The US dominates this year’s CWTS Leiden Ranking of the world’s top universities, published on 17 April. Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (in 13th place) is the only university outside the US to feature in the top 20 of the ranking, which was devised by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology takes top spot, with the University of California, Santa Barbara in second place, just ahead of Stanford University. The highest-placed UK institution is the University of Cambridge (24th), followed by the University of Oxford (30th). Unlike many competing league tables, the CWTS Leiden Ranking does not use academic reputation surveys and instead concentrates on scientific output by measuring each university’s research citation scores.

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