Hopes and fears, globally speaking
Universities around the world fear the “commodification and commercialization of education”, according to a survey. The International Association of Universities polled 1,336 institutions across 131 countries to gauge their views on the internationalisation of higher education – through placements abroad, research collaboration and overseas students. Respondents expressed “concern about equal access to international opportunities for all students and about the commodification and commercialization of education”, the report says. Just over half said their university had a policy or strategy for internationalisation, and another 22 per cent said they were preparing one. Yet fewer than one in six universities said internationalisation “forms part of the overall institutional strategy”. Results also show regional variations in hoped-for gains from international engagement. In Asia Pacific and North America, the top-ranked benefit was increasing students’ international awareness, while in Europe and the Middle East, institutions hoped to improve the quality of their teaching and learning.
Witty review spurs smart thinking
The National Centre for Universities and Business will take the lead in running a hub to connect universities and businesses. The Advisory Hub for Smart Specialisation will support Local Enterprise Partnerships in mapping clusters of innovation. It will also collect evidence of successes and flag the areas where universities and businesses should be working together. David Willetts made the announcement at the Universities UK conference on 3 April. He said that the hub will focus on “investing smartly and specialising in areas where we can really make a difference”. The development of the hub follows recommendations from Sir Andrew Witty’s review of the part universities can play in growth.
Non-university bodies join scheme
Six publicly funded research institutes have won Athena SWAN awards for promoting good employment practices for women in science. It is the first time that institutions that are not part of universities have been accepted on to the scheme. The announcement opens the door for 65 more research institutes to sign up to the initiative, including the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) and the Natural History Museum. It comes after a successful pilot project with research institutes, which ran in 2013. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has given the Equality Challenge Unit, which runs the Athena SWAN scheme, £32,000 to fund the expansion of the charter until March 2015.
Baroness remains on board
Tessa Blackstone has been reappointed chair of the British Library for a second four-year term, until 2018. A former Labour minister for higher and further education and minister of the arts, Baroness Blackstone has also served as master of Birkbeck, University of London and, most recently, as vice-chancellor of the University of Greenwich. Highlights of her first four years at the library include the appointment of Roly Keating as chief executive officer in 2012, an £8.8 million partnership with the Qatar Foundation, the relocation of the newspaper collection from Colindale to Boston Spa and the construction of the Newspaper Storage Building, the implementation of non-print legal deposit legislation, and the transfer of the management of the Public Lending Right scheme to the library.
The annual Times Higher Education pay survey always elicits a huge reaction online, and the 2014 edition was no different. Much of the discussion was focused on vice-chancellors’ remuneration, which was up 3.3 per cent overall compared with the previous year. “Utterly speechless over the ridiculously high pay for VCs, AND the huge difference in average pay for men v women,” tweeted @Farrah_Nazir, with @DrLeeJones calling it the “rise of the academic fat-cat”. “No one ever picks a uni based on the Vice Chancellor, what do they actually do that warrants such a pay packet, I’m curious,” exclaimed @Anyaaanwuuuu.