News in brief - 1 January 2015

January 1, 2015

Terror bill
Hefce may monitor compliance

England’s funding council should take on new powers to ensure that universities and private colleges comply with duties to prevent people being drawn into terrorism, the government has proposed. A consultation on the “Prevent” strategy has been issued following the publication of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which puts a duty on specified public authorities to “have due regard, in the exercise of its functions, to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. The government says in its Prevent consultation that it is “considering expanding the current powers of the Higher Education Funding Council for England to allow it to become the body which monitors compliance with this duty for higher education institutions and private HE providers”. The document points out any extension to Hefce’s current role “would require changes to primary legislation”.

Scotland
Gray given shadow education role

Iain Gray, the former Scottish Labour leader, has been named shadow education secretary in leader Jim Murphy’s reshuffle. Mr Gray will have the job of outlining the party’s position on university tuition fees, with an internal review of the issue ordered by former leader Johann Lamont due to report soon. Ms Lamont had branded the ruling Scottish National Party’s policy of free higher education “not viable”, but continuing opposition to fees had been hinted at by Kezia Dugdale, Mr Gray’s predecessor in the education brief, who has been elected deputy leader.

Rebranding
King’s to drop ‘College’

Students and alumni of King’s College London reacted with horror after the university announced that it will change its name to “King’s London” as part of a rebrand. The change – which will not alter the institution’s legal title – is due to take effect from February and follows consultation with staff, student and alumni over the past 18 months. It is designed to remove confusion among prospective students and parents over whether King’s is a college or a university, a spokeswoman said. In an email to staff and students on 16 December, King’s principal Edward Byrne calls the rebrand “a very modest change similar to how several other large London university institutions are now presenting themselves”. But students were quick to denounce the plans. After the news broke on 15 December, thousands of people signed a petition calling the rebrand “ridiculous”. The cost of the rebranding project – reportedly £300,000 – was labelled as “an obscene amount of money…which could be spent on improving student life at King’s”.

Language A levels
Essays in English? Non merci

Plans to ask students to write an analytical essay in English on foreign language texts have been dropped from new modern language A levels. The A Level Content Advisory Board (Alcab), set up by the Russell Group of universities to oversee A-level reform, had proposed making the English essay compulsory for language students. But it has now dropped the idea after concerns by schoolteachers and academics that the essay could disrupt teaching and learning, according to final advice sent to Nicky Morgan, the education secretary. Students will instead write analytically on two works in the language of study, according to a letter by Nigel Thrift, the chairman of Alcab and the University of Warwick’s vice-chancellor.

Correction

In the research excellence framework tables published in last week’s Times Higher Education, the University of South Wales was incorrectly given the title of the University of Glamorgan. We apologise for the error.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Twitter was awash with universities boasting about their performance in the 2014 research excellence framework, but not everyone was impressed. “It’s only a matter of time before someone tweets ‘Congrats to our PR department who had 65% of their #REF2014 spins rated ‘world-leading’,” said @ProfMcGhee. “So far on Twitter I’ve counted 14 universities claiming to be in the UK’s top 10,” added @paulcoxon. Meanwhile, @_JimCollins was disappointed that our coverage did not feature “an A-level style photo of VCs jumping into the air opening their results”.

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