For the record

October 12, 2001

Lecturers attack UUK over ombudsman plans
Lecturers’ leaders have attacked vice-chancellors for excluding staff complaints from their plans for a higher education ombudsman.

Liz Allen, of lecturers’ union Natfhe, has written to Universities UK complaining that staff are relegated to “an afterthought” in the consultation document.

The UUK paper suggests the creation of an external review panel, led by an independent reviewer, or ombudsman, to deal with student complaints against institutions that have not been resolved internally.

But while initial discussions clearly included plans for staff complaints, and the Nolan report recommended that any new machinery include staff, the paper explicitly excludes them.

UUK says that the plans could be “easily adapted” to include staff. The consultation ends on October 19.

Debt-ridden Oxford paper faces closure
Cherwell , Oxford’s famous student newspaper whose alumni include George Orwell and Graham Greene, is on the brink of extinction owing tens of thousands of pounds to creditors, including its printers and customs and excise.

It hopes to settle its debts by producing issues with the minimum number of pages and maximum advertising during the winter term. It will then have no reserves to see it through the spring and summer terms, when advertisers are thin on the ground.

Cherwell editor Jon Boone said alternatives at that stage would be bleak. The Oxford Union debating society is said to be interested in buying the paper but Cherwell opposes this, claiming it is the only independent voice scrutinising the society’s dealings.

Funding for Scottish colleges looks healthy
Scottish further education colleges received £374 million of funding in 2000-01, a rise of 16 per cent on the previous year, according to the Scottish Further Education Funding Council’s annual report.

It reveals that college funding will have risen by more than 50 per cent in cash terms to £423 million in the five years to 2004.

Esther Roberton, the SFEFC’s chair, said: “The overall financial climate for further education remained favourable with the Scottish Executive again recognising through increased funding the major contribution colleges make to Scotland’s economy and our wider society.”

Enrolment stalls in Wales
Growth in the number of students on full-time undergraduate courses in Wales has stalled, figures from Education and Learning Wales show. Full-time enrolment dropped by 0.7 per cent between 1999 and 2000 and 2000 and 2001, following two years of no growth, while part-time enrolment went up by 7.7 per cent.

Europeans team up to run masters course
Edge Hill College in Ormskirk has joined forces with six European universities to launch a masters degree programme jointly validated by all the partners.

The European master of development studies has been set up with institutions from Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Romania and Sweden.

£3 million donated to Royal College of Art
The Royal College of Art has been given a £3 million grant by the Helen Hamlyn Foundation, the largest single donation the college has ever received.

The money will go towards the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre which was set up in 1999 with £1 million from the foundation.

The centre explores the design implications of major social changes and develops the practical application of related concepts.

Americans set to buy animal-testing lab
Animal-testing laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences is to be bought by an American firm. A group of investors has set up Life Sciences Research in the United States to switch ownership of Huntingdon to the other side of the Atlantic.

Huntingdon has been at the centre of an often violent campaign by animal rights protesters hoping to drive it out of business. The government offered the company use of the Bank of England’s facilities in July after Huntingdon was deserted by its financial backers.

Meningitis warning after student death
Students at the universities of Hull and Newcastle are being warned of the dangers of meningitis after two students contracted the disease.

At Hull, Jonathan McMillan, a 21-year-old postgraduate, died only 20 hours after starting to feel unwell with the B strain of the illness. At Newcastle, the results of tests on a first-year female student thought to have meningococcal meningitis were being awaited.

Sussex University wins £1.5m VAT claim
The University of Sussex is likely to receive at least £1.5 million after winning a battle over VAT payments.

The High Court heard that from 1973 to 1996, the university failed to reclaim all the VAT it could have. The university claimed it had been “positively encouraged” by the government not to set off against its liability to Customs and Excise the VAT it had itself paid on invoices from traders.

But when it asked for a rebate in November 1996, Customs and Excise said it was too late and refused to pay up.

In March last year, the VAT Tribunal ruled that the university could have back overpayments of VAT made between November 1993 and November 1996 - but disallowed any further back-dating. Mr Justice Neuberger ruled this week that Customs and Excise had been wrong not to allow full repayment.

Institute raises cash by selling pet llamas
The Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen is raising funds by selling llamas as pets.

It built up a herd for a research project, but is now selling animals bred on site for between £200 and £700.

Could the earth really move less in Essex?
It could put a spring in your step in Cornwall but leave you flat-footed in Essex. Scientists are measuring bounce across Britain in the first survey of an entire country’s physical flexibility.

Peter Clark, lecturer in geomatics at Newcastle University, is leading the effort to quantify how the weight of the tides on the continental shelf around the British Isles causes our island to rise and fall by up to 10cm daily.

A national network of 40 global positioning system receivers and satellite transmitters will reveal how different regions move by different amounts.

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