News in brief

January 3, 2013

Undergraduate tuition fees

Thrice the price, but with field trips

Universities are increasingly paying for student field trips following the trebling of the cap on tuition fees this academic year, a report for the Higher Education Academy says. Academics from the universities of Chester and Reading quizzed staff at 24 higher education institutions about how fieldwork connected to geography, biosciences or earth and environmental sciences departments was funded after undergraduate tuition fees rose to a maximum of £9,000 a year. Three-quarters of academics working in geography, earth and environmental sciences said there had been a shift towards making all compulsory fieldwork free to students, says The Future of Higher Education Fieldwork in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. The study comes in the wake of last year's National Union of Students campaign to end "hidden" course costs, with the NUS arguing that all such fees should be declared in a department's promotional literature.

Pharmacy studies

Restricted dosage

The number of students admitted to pharmacy programmes in England will be restricted to match the number of NHS-funded training placements, Health Education England has announced. The decision follows a campaign by the Pharmacy Schools Council and the British Pharmaceutical Students' Association warning that failure to do so could leave many graduates unable to complete the training needed to practise as a pharmacist. The move brings the subject in line with medicine and dentistry, which are already subject to controls. John Smart, chairman of the PhSC, called it a step in the right direction of recognising pharmacy as a healthcare profession. A review of pharmacy student numbers by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence will inform decisions about the level of the cap.

Widening participation

Building a better entry ramp

The Higher Education Academy has published new resources to help those working in outreach and widening participation. It is hoped that the four "toolkits" - available on the HEA's website - will support the strategy, management and delivery of outreach work to encourage those from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider university. They draw on existing outreach methods and resources - notably those produced by the national Aimhigher programme, scrapped by the government in 2011 - and focus on targeting activities, partnership building, delivering programmes and undertaking evaluation.

Overseas student visas

So, tell us a lot about yourself

The Home Office's controversial 100,000 additional interviews of overseas students will cover aspects such as their educational history and the institution where they plan to study. Theresa May, the home secretary, announced last month that the interview scheme would be "radically" extended. In a statement to Times Higher Education, a Home Office spokeswoman said the interviews would "consider whether an applicant is a genuine student", taking account of "the applicant's education history, study and post-study plans" and their "course provider and agents". Asked for the cost of the scheme and how it would be delivered, the spokeswoman said: "We will open up discussions with colleagues in other government departments on the details of delivery."


If you're reading this, then prophecies about the world ending last year were inaccurate. But its sheer unlikelihood didn't stop online readers offering amusing comments about the phenomenon. In response to the complaint that believers in doomsday predictions will never admit that they're wrong, Mike pointed out: "The other thing they almost definitely won't say is: 'We've got it right.'" Meanwhile, Robert questioned the view that aliens didn't arrive to save people from an apocalyptic flood in 1954: "How do we know that the aliens didn't save us from it without having to reveal themselves? (Sorry, couldn't resist that)".

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