News in brief - 11 September 2014

September 11, 2014

Horizon2020
Oh, where are the humanities?

There has been a “systematic failure” to integrate humanities into the societal challenges section of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research programme, Science Europe has claimed. In an opinion paper, The Human Factor in the 2014-2015 Work Programme of the Horizon 2020 Societal Challenges, the association of European funders and research organisations – whose members include the UK research councils – says that more than 90 per cent of topics listed in the societal challenges section of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme for 2014-15 are not open to the humanities, and the remaining 10 per cent call on only a narrow range of humanities expertise. It also argues that humanities are seen as having a mostly “translational role”, such as investigating the public reception of technological innovation, “rather than being an integral part of the research process”.

Student loans
Sharia scheme is still a way off

A Sharia-compliant loan system for Muslim students would require new laws to be passed and is unlikely to be introduced in the near future. According to a consultation paper published on 4 September by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the government supports the introduction of an alternative model of finance for Muslim students, but Parliament would need to find an “appropriate legislative window” for such plans to be adopted, which may take some time. The BIS consultation, commissioned in April, found that there was demand for a Sharia-compliant loan system, which would likely be run on the “takaful” structure in which groups of people cooperate to provide mutual finance assistance to members, rather than on the traditional lending/borrowing structure.

Pensions
Portable plan for mobile scholars

A pension scheme for researchers who move between laboratories in different European countries will open for contributions in 2015. This autumn a consortium of employers are establishing the initiative, designed to help researchers preserve their supplementary pension benefits if they cross international borders when changing jobs. The single European pension arrangement, known as Resaver, will offer lower asset management charges and better access to high quality investment, according to the European Commission. Participating organisations include the University of Cambridge, the Italian National Research Council and Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

Student recruitment agents
There’s fraud out there, says OBHE

There is “no question” that suspect and outright fraudulent practice exists among the international agents working to recruit students on behalf of universities, a report has claimed. Arrangements in which agents benefit financially on a per-enrolment basis encourage the “admission of poorly qualified applicants, mismatches between student and institution, and even outright fraud”, according to The Agent Question: Insights from Students, Universities and Agents, published last week by the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. Despite these findings, the report says that it would be wrong to conclude that “all agents are bad” and their use should be abolished, adding that this would be akin to saying that the existence of diploma mills “means that all universities are bad and should be abolished”.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Last week’s cover feature, in which both male and female scholars spoke frankly about juggling parenting and research, had our Twitter followers’ tongues wagging (well, their fingers typing). @SarahTVnews said that the article was a “brilliant piece” offering “great perspectives”, adding that the balance between parenthood and scholarship was a “constant battle” for her. Conversely, @ltotelin said that while she couldn’t relate to the stories in the piece, they were nonetheless “useful”. @Kim_McKee said that the feature was an “honest but rather depressing read”, adding: “Babies v work, no contest really”. She did not, however, reveal the obvious winner of that particular battle.

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