News in brief – 12 March 2015

March 12, 2015

Gender bias
History departments in dock

Conditions for female academics in some history departments “smack of the 1970s”, according to a new report. The Royal Historical Society research finds that an “invisible bias” and the “silencing of women” are rife within academic life. More than 20 per cent of historians surveyed said they had experienced, observed and suspected gender discrimination in meetings, promotion decisions, membership of committees and allocation of roles. In the report foreword, Dame Jinty Nelson, emeritus professor of medieval history at King’s College London, says: “‘Invisible or unconscious bias’, ‘stereotype threat’, and ‘the silencing of women’, are unfortunately still rife in our professional experience. Contracts not specifying sabbatical leave, and inadequate provision for those with caring responsibilities, smack – still – of the 1970s.” Gender Equality and Historians in UK Higher Education draws on a survey of 707 history academics.

Intellectual property
Get yourself tooled up

A new online learning tool to increase the understanding of intellectual property rights among lecturers and students has been launched. The IP Tutor is designed to teach students how best to apply IP skills during enterprise activities. Students should leave university with a “basic understanding of intellectual property principles”, said the business minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe as she launched the tool at the StudentshIP Enterprise Awards on 5 March. As part of the awards she also announced 10 projects that will win a share of £450,000 to help to develop student-business partnerships that facilitate the understanding of IP. The winners included a Patent, IP and Entrepreneurship club at Aston University; an IP game from Lancaster University; and City University London’s Start-Ed Student Accelerator project.

Policy prompt
Repay student teachers’ loans

The government should repay student loans for those who opt to go into teaching in state schools and introduce a national scholarship scheme for “talented” undergraduates. Those are two of the recommendations in the “Education Manifesto” published on 6 March by the Right-leaning Policy Exchange thinktank. Offering ideas for political parties to take up in their manifestos, the report says the government should “commit to paying off the annual repayment of student loans for as many years as all eligible teachers remain in teaching in state schools”. A Conservative Party source told TES that it was “warm” to such an idea. The report also says the government should “design a prestigious scholarship scheme to financially support the most talented undergraduates in the country – covering approximately 200 individuals a year”.

Scottish secrecy
University principals’ pay

A union has criticised Scotland’s universities after most of them refused to release full minutes of the committees that set their principals’ pay. Of the 17 Scottish institutions asked by the University and College Union to provide minutes of their remuneration committees under the Freedom of Information Act, four refused to release any minutes at all and eight responses were heavily redacted. Mary Senior, the union’s Scotland official, said the response “makes a mockery of claims by Universities Scotland that Scottish institutions are setting the benchmark for transparency”. A Universities Scotland spokesman said that the details of principals’ remuneration packages were published annually, and that governing bodies oversaw the work of remuneration committees.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

News that the University of Bolton spent £100,000 on 20 “awaydays” to a lake where the vice-chancellor’s yacht is moored had people on Twitter talking. “Words fail me!” tweeted @hudvc, while @sybil_vimes said simply: “bloody hell”. “Well where else would you keep a yacht?” asked @timsowula. “He’s a smart guy, it would be useless up in the hills.” @MWstory was quite sympathetic. “Windermere is the UK’s biggest lake – the Bolton VC’s yacht might be a very long way from the conference hotel,” he tweeted.

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