News in brief - 1 May 2014

May 1, 2014

Scottish independence
Hepi/THE essay competition

Writers with strong opinions on what Scottish independence might mean for higher education are invited to enter the Higher Education Policy Institute/Times Higher Education Scottish independence essay-writing competition. The best pro- and anti-independence pieces will each win a £500 prize, and both essays will be published by THE. Nick Hillman, director of Hepi, said the competition was an opportunity for “students, academics and just interested watchers – from both sides of the border – to express their views”. Entries must take a clear position for or against independence, and Mr Hillman said the competition was seeking essays “that may inject thoughts that have not been at the heart of the independence debate so far”. They do not necessarily need to cover all the consequences of independence for higher education, he added, and could focus on a single, original angle. Entries should be submitted by 3 July 2014 to, and should be no longer than 1,500 words.

Degree-awarding powers
Guildhall stars in its own show

A drama and music school has been given the right to award its own degrees. The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, whose alumni include actor Daniel Craig and record producer Sir George Martin, was given taught degree-awarding powers by the Privy Council after a process that included audit and observation by the Quality Assurance Agency over the entire 2012-13 academic year. Now based in a new £90 million building in the Barbican area of London, the school previously had its degrees validated by the University of Kent and City University London.

Britons studying abroad
High UK fees spur rise in interest

Higher tuition fees in the UK are one reason why an increasing number of young Britons are considering studying abroad, according to a British Council survey. Thirty-seven per cent of the 18- to 24-year-old respondents said they were considering study overseas, a 17 percentage point increase on last year. The US was the most popular prospective destination, followed by Australia, France, Germany, Canada and Spain. Nearly six in 10 of those who were considering overseas study said that high domestic tuition fees were one of the factors behind their interest.

UK research funding
Industry views on £7bn pot sought

Businesses and scientists will be consulted on the allocation of £7 billion in capital funding for research during the next Parliament. Announcing the consultation on 25 April, George Osborne, the chancellor, said science, research and innovation were central to the government’s long-term economic plan but that the UK needed to do more to create commercial successes from scientific discoveries. In last year’s spending round, Mr Osborne announced that the capital budget for science would be increased to £1.1 billion in 2015-16 and maintained in real terms until the end of the decade. The consultation aims to ensure that the money “is targeted at the areas of research that scientists believe have the highest potential and greatest opportunity for commercial application”. Mr Osborne also announced that the government will fund a new £200 million polar research ship to be used for climate and ocean research in both Antarctica and the Arctic.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

It was inevitable that our lead story on varying levels of pay for graduate teaching assistants would prompt comments, and indeed it did. @zenscara pointed out that not only was pay variable but “many hours” of work by GTAs and tutors are unpaid, while @SMCoulombeau argued that “until universities pay GTAs for the hours they spend preparing & marking, the figures mean very little…they imply [£73.44] for a lecture is generous. At LEAST 2-3 full days’ work will go into preparing that lecture. Who’s generous now?” However, @Volcanologist questioned the accuracy of the amounts cited by those surveyed for our story, revealing: “I demonstrated at Leic on a far better rate of pay than reported.” But @Geology_Geek backed the figures, saying “that’s about right for when I demonstrated at Durham, we got ~£12”.

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