News in brief - 1 August 2013

August 1, 2013

Doctoral study
Finish rates inch up

The proportion of PhD students in England expected to obtain degrees has risen slightly, according to a Higher Education Funding Council for England report published on 26 July. The study of the rates of qualification from postgraduate research degrees indicates that 72.9 per cent of the 11,625 students from the UK or the European Union who began full-time doctorates in 2010-11 are expected to obtain a degree within seven years. This compares with 70.1 per cent who started in 2009‑10 and 70.5 per cent in 2008-09. Meanwhile 80.5 per cent will complete their PhD within 25 years, the point at which it is assumed that anyone who is going to earn a doctorate will have done so. Predictions are based on the proportion of students who change status in institutions’ annual submissions to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The figures also show that nine institutions are likely to see qualification rates for their 2010-11 intakes fall significantly below their benchmark qualification levels, compared with 10 in the 2009‑10 intake.

Scottish Funding Council
Gaelic dictionary gets £2m boost

A partnership of five Scottish universities has been given £2 million to accelerate the writing of a historic dictionary of the Gaelic language. The Scottish Funding Council has given the money to the Faclair na Gàidhlig project to recruit more staff and buy new software. The creation of the dictionary is being overseen by the University of the Highlands and Islands in partnership with the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde. It is hoped that the dictionary, based on an analysis of 30 million words of historic Gaelic, will eventually be a resource comparable to the Oxford English Dictionary. It will be available free of charge online.

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
New string to 115-year-old bow

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has been officially designated a higher education institution. Under an order of Parliament, which came into force on 19 July, it will now be eligible to receive direct funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Founded in 1898, it has until now been an independent organisation and a registered charity affiliated with the University of Liverpool School of Medicine. In recent years, however, its lack of formal status as a higher education institution restricted its access to research and capital funding and affected rules governing its recruitment of overseas students. It has a research portfolio in excess of £200 million and its teaching programme attracts over 600 postgraduate students from more than 65 countries.

Open-access mandate
Monographs shelved (for now)

The UK funding councils have narrowed the scope of their proposed open-access mandate for the post-2014 research excellence framework. Initial proposals published in February envisaged requiring a certain proportion of submitted monographs to be open access. But among 260 respondents to an informal consultation there was “widespread concern about the extent to which open access is reasonably achievable” for monographs, and they will now be exempt from the mandate. However, Research Councils UK’s formal proposals, published for consultation on 24 July, make clear that the exemption will be only temporary “in view of our expectation that open access publication for monographs and books is likely to be achievable in the long term”.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

The launch of the Times Higher Education Best University Workplace survey set tongues wagging on Twitter this week. “At last, a survey for academics!” said @S_J_Lancaster, while @RLFinn_ said she would “await these results with interest”. “I’m dubious about yet another Uni league table,” tweeted @DrLeeJones, “but at least this surveys those who work there.” Meanwhile, in the southern hemisphere, @evabpetersen wanted her country’s higher education sector to follow suit. “We want these administered in Australia!” she said.

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