News in brief - 12 June 2014

June 12, 2014

Disabled Students’ Allowance
Blunkett joins anti-cuts protest

Former home secretary David Blunkett has tabled an early day motion in Parliament to raise concerns over changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance. Submitted on the eve of a National Union of Students-organised national day of action against the changes on 6 June, the motion by Mr Blunkett, who is blind, noted that disabled students claiming DSA achieved higher degree grades than those who did not receive it. Campaigners claim that plans to restrict student access to DSA from 2016, announced by the government in April, will force more disabled students to drop out of university.

Research councils
Seven go fishing for data

All seven research councils will now use the Researchfish system to collect data on the outcomes and impact of the research they fund. Researchfish is currently used by the Science and Technology Facilities Council and Medical Research Council (in partnership with which it was developed in 2009). But until now the other five research councils have used the Research Outcomes System developed by Research Councils UK. In a move aimed at harmonising data collection – particularly for researchers with multiple funders – use of the ROS will be discontinued. Ian Viney, the MRC’s director of strategic evaluation and impact, said: “Researchfish has already linked more than £20 billion of research funded since 2006 to comprehensive details of resulting outputs. This will now grow by over £4.5 billion each year into a powerful prospective record.”

The Sutton Trust
US scholarship scheme expands

Sixty-one UK state school students will start degrees in the US this year as part of a scheme run by the Sutton Trust, a charity that works to improve social mobility through education. The number represents a nearly threefold increase on last year’s pilot of the trust’s US Programme, in which 21 students accepted places at American institutions. Most of the students come from households with an income of less than £25,000 a year, and each will receive about £138,500 in financial aid over the course of their study, paid for by the US institutions and scholarship programmes. Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “These new results are a sign that more young people from low- and middle-income homes are making informed choices about their futures, considering top US universities…just as those from affluent backgrounds have been doing.”

Widening participation
Comprehensively competitive

Bright pupils who go to comprehensive schools are almost as likely to attend a high-status university as those with similar backgrounds who go to grammar schools, a study has found. According to a Department for Education report, grammar school pupils are roughly four times more likely to go to a top university than those from non-selective secondary schools. Nearly 40 per cent of grammar school pupils attend a “high-status institution” compared with less than 10 per cent of those from comprehensives, according to the report, titled The Link between Secondary School Characteristics and University Participation and Outcomes. But that gap fell to less than five percentage points when pupils with similar attainment levels at the age of 11 and similar background characteristics, such as socio-economic status and geographic location, were compared.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

An eight-month standoff between a journal’s editorial board and its publisher Taylor & Francis over the publication of a debate on academic publishing, reported by Times Higher Education last week, provoked a big reaction on Twitter. @glynmoody described the publisher’s decision to delay publication of a paper criticising the profits made by commercial publishers as a “staggering attempt to squelch discussion of #openaccess”, while @pete_kingsley described the whole affair as a “grubby fiasco”. “This really is awful and very scary,” said @elebelfiore, while @rcooper said that “academic publishers censoring articles” was “why your librarian keeps pushing open access”. “If your publisher censors an article critical of publishers, for god’s sake withdraw it, and publish it open access!” added @ted_underwood.

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