Two London geography departments to merge
The geography departments at the School of Oriental and African Studies and King's College London are to merge. The institutions are preparing to sign an agreement that, subject to funding council approval, could be finalised by August 1.
Soas's geography department, which has nine academic staff, will be transferred to King's. There will be no redundancies.
Colin Bundy, director of Soas, said: "The merger with King's will create an enhanced, strengthened and diversified new department."
Comic Relief honoured for fundraising efforts
The charity Comic Relief is to be given an honorary doctorate by the University of East Anglia in recognition of its fundraising activities over the past decade.
The honorary doctorate in civil law will be awarded at a ceremony on July 13. It is the first time the university has honoured an organisation in this way.
"We just felt it was something we wanted to acknowledge," a university spokeswoman said. "What Comic Relief is doing is making a very serious point in a fun way."
Cambridge to establish internal ombudsman
Cambridge University is to establish an internal ombudsman to handle complaints from staff and students before they have to resort to the High Court.
Students gave a cautious welcome to the plans to revive the ancient office of commissary to take responsibility for complaints from staff and students when they have exhausted existing internal procedures.
Student union president Mat Coakley said the students were encouraged as the office holder would have judicial experience and would not be related directly to earlier stages of complaints.
Hefce looks at how fees affect student choice
Funding chiefs are examining the effect of tuition fees on the participation and choices made by higher education students.
The study is one of five research projects that will be funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
The others are: an evaluation of the collaboration between higher education institutions and further education colleges to increase participation in higher education; a study of the appointment, retention and promotion of academic staff within institutions; student demand and the costs of recruiting and supporting diverse students; and efficiency and the marginal cost of expansion.
Kofi Annan urged to reject Oxford degree
Students are urging Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, to turn down an honorary degree from Oxford University next month.
Five Oxford student societies - Asian, Pakistani, Russian, African and Middle Eastern - have written to Mr Annan drawing his attention to allegations of race discrimination, due to be heard in the county court this year. The case has been brought by excluded student Nadeem Ahmed.
They have asked Mr Annan to pull out of the honorary degree ceremony later this month. As The THES went to press, the UN was unable to confirm Mr Annan's response.
Scots flex financial muscle to widen access
The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council plans to use its financial muscle to ensure that universities are genuinely involved in widening access.
David Wann, deputy chief executive of Shefc, said increased participation was not a "bolt-on issue" but a core responsibility for every university and college, tackled by senior managers, heads of departments, admissions officers, guidance staff, lecturers and tutors.
Mr Wann, speaking at the joint national conference of the Scottish Network for Access and Participation and the Scottish funding councils, said the councils had to report to the Scottish Executive on the impact institutions were making in supporting the social justice agenda.
Research institute to open after £23m gift
Cambridge University is to open an interdisciplinary research institute next week with a £23 million gift from BP.
The BP Institute for Multiphase Flow, to be opened by Royal Society president Sir Robert May, will house 40 researchers from academe and industry. It brings together five university departments, including chemical engineering and earth sciences.
The research will focus largely on the flow of fluids, such as oil and water, through permeable rocks, which will help find oil.
The donation will also fund six posts including the BP professor of petroleum science, Andrew Woods.
Multi-centre university planned for Shropshire
Plans for a University of Shropshire were announced this week as county council officials spelt out their vision for a multi-centre institution.
Nigel Pursey, council chief executive, said Shrewsbury would become the hub of the university with satellite centres in other towns.
A study is being commissioned to discover where gaps in provision exist before a formal case is presented to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Heriot-Watt keeps a cool head for business
Heriot-Watt University students hope to help insomniacs keep a cool head with a chilled pillow.
Twenty first-year management studies students had to come up with a business proposal as part of an enterprise and entrepreneurship module.
Team leader Alan Marshall said: "We were having trouble thinking up a really good idea. We were starting to lose sleep over it when one of our team had this brainwave. A nice cool pillow could be very soothing at any time, especially if you have a sore head."
The pillow would contain polyacrylic beads that could be cooled in the fridge during the day. The proposal is one of 22 being evaluated by a panel of business experts, with prizes from the Royal Bank of Scotland for the best idea and best business plan.
Scots girls out-perform boys
Latest figures for Scottish school-leavers' qualifications show girls continuing to outstrip boys at all levels except for the highest level of three or more Certificate of Sixth Year Studies passes, where boys maintain a narrow lead.