News in brief

August 8, 2013

Higher Education Academy

Marshall commands top job

The deputy head of the Higher Education Academy has taken over its helm. Stephanie Marshall, who was formerly deputy chief executive (research and policy) at the HEA, became its new chief executive on 1 August. She replaced Craig Mahoney, who has left to become principal and vice-chancellor of the University of the West of Scotland.

Modern languages

Weniger, mindre, moins, menos

The number of students starting modern languages degrees in England fell by 12 per cent last year – double the overall drop in student numbers, data show. As tuition fees rose to a maximum of £9,000 in 2012-13, only 4,842 undergraduates accepted places to study modern languages, compared with 5,508 students in 2011-12, according to data released by the Higher Education Funding Council for England on 31 July. Some of the sharpest falls took place in German and Scandinavian studies (31 per cent), French (down 15 per cent) and Spanish and Portuguese (down 15 per cent). Overall, the number of people taking up university places via Ucas in 2012-13 fell by 6 per cent. The fall in students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects was 3 per cent, while enrolments in arts, humanities and social sciences fell by 6 per cent. Those doing clinical subjects, such as medicine and dentistry, increased by 1 per cent.

Postgraduate study

‘Unaffordable luxury’?

Two-thirds of UK undergraduate students do not think a postgraduate degree is worth the cost, a survey has found. Only 35 per cent of respondents in their second or third year thought obtaining a postgraduate degree would be value for money. This contrasted with master’s and PhD student cohorts, where 59 and 77 per cent respectively felt that their postgraduate degree was worth the cost. According to Higher Education Funding Council for England figures, there was a fall of 6 per cent in postgraduate numbers in 2011-12. One second-year respondent called a higher degree “an unaffordable luxury”. Carried out by, the survey of more than 1,100 students found that only 57 per cent of second- and third-year students believed that a postgraduate degree would boost their job prospects.

Compressed degrees

Get down to business, says CBI

Universities need more freedom to run one- or two-year compressed degrees tailored to the needs of companies, according to business leaders. The CBI claims in a report that there are too few courses with business links, students have a weak understanding of student finance and the careers advice available to young people looking for a more vocational route is poor. Recommendations in Tomorrow’s Growth, which was released on 31 July, also include the introduction of a single Ucas-style applications system for all business-backed university courses and industry-run training programmes.


In last week’s story about student workloads – “Discordant variations on a workload theme” – an incorrect quote was used in response to data on student workloads at Leeds Metropolitan University. The response from the university should have quoted Paul Smith, deputy vice-chancellor for strategic development, who said that not all teaching time had been taken into account in the Which? survey, that it had sampled only a very small proportion of students and that nearly 90 per cent of business and administration students were in work or further study six months after graduation.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

An article in which an Oxbridge graduate explained why they took a job writing for an essay mill stoked fiery discussion online. “This makes my blood boil,” said @MattB_UK on Twitter. “Student ‘ghostwriters’ should be prosecuted for fraud, as should the students.” “Genuinely angry reading this,” added @lawandsexuality. “These writers disgust me.” @ctokelly asked: “At what point should we sacrifice the depth of…essay-writing in favour of the integrity of exams?”, while @JasonHSchaub said the article was “disconcerting but unsurprising”.

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