News in brief

May 9, 2013


Another four on Futurelearn

Four more universities have announced plans to offer massive open online courses via the UK-based Futurelearn platform, taking the total number of higher education institutions involved to 21. Loughborough, Sheffield, Glasgow and Strathclyde universities are the latest to partner with The Open University-owned company, which is due to start offering courses from affiliated universities, free of charge to students, later this year. In addition, the British Museum has signed up to work with Futurelearn, following the lead of the British Library, which partnered with the Mooc provider in February, and the British Council. “We are delighted that more of the UK’s leading universities, along with one of its most popular cultural institutions, have agreed to work with Futurelearn,” said Simon Nelson, the venture’s chief executive.

Spending review

Increase science budget petition

More than 5,000 people have so far signed a petition asking the government to increase the science budget in this year’s spending round. The petition, launched late last month by the Science is Vital campaign organisation, calls for UK government spending on research to increase to 0.8 per cent of gross domestic product, a rise of 0.2 percentage points on its current level. This would amount to an increase of about £2 billion a year. Science is Vital also organised a petition ahead of the 2010 spending review, in which research received a flat-cash settlement. The group understands that the Treasury favours a similar settlement in this year’s spending review - which will set budgets for 2015-16. But the petition argues that this would further erode the budget in real terms and make it “difficult for the UK to maintain its excellent reputation for scientific research”.

Sector finances

Surplus down 6.4 per cent

The surplus recorded by UK higher education institutions has fallen by 6.4 per cent. The Higher Education Statistics Agency has released figures showing that the surplus of net income over expenditure fell to £1.1 billion in 2011-12. But that is still significantly higher than the surplus of £836 million recorded for 2009-10. Within the individual UK nations, the 2011-12 surplus was highest in Northern Ireland (where there are two universities), at 5.1 per cent, up from 1.3 per cent the previous year. England was next highest at 4.2 per cent, down from 4.6 per cent the previous year.

Graduate employment

Arts graduates: ‘widen job search’

The career options that arts graduates are likely consider are almost as limited as those pursued by engineering graduates, according to research. analysed data from its 470,063 subscribers and looked at how many industry sectors they said they were willing to work in. Gerry Wyatt, operations director of the site, said: “The stereotype of arts graduates waiting tables hoping for a big break is backed up by our data, which shows these graduates strongly focusing on industry sectors directly related to their degree subjects.” Social science, business and management and language graduates were rated the top three most flexible groups. “Arts graduates should recognise the benefits of broadening their job search and the transferability of their skills to other industry sectors,” Mr Wyatt said.

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