News in brief - 13 March 2014

March 13, 2014

Financial health
Dark clouds on horizon

Slowing growth in international student numbers could have “a material impact on the sector”, along with looming pension liabilities. Those are among the warnings made by the Higher Education Funding Council for England in its annual report on the financial health of the sector, released last week. “In terms of overseas student recruitment, the latest data for 2012-13 and 2013-14 indicate a slowing of growth in the numbers of overseas students recruited by the sector, compared to recent years, which could make plans for income growth more difficult to achieve,” Hefce’s report says. “This could have a material impact on the sector as overseas fee income represents a significant source of income for many institutions.” The report also says that “a new requirement on institutions to include pension scheme liabilities” on their balance sheets for multi-employer funds, such as the Universities Superannuation Scheme, “will have a significant impact on the financial plans and performance of institutions in future”.

Universities UK
Regent’s voice gets louder

Regent’s University London is the second private institution to be admitted to Universities UK. The non-profit institution’s membership was approved last month by the board of UUK, the organisation that acts as the voice of universities. The only other private member is the non-profit University of Buckingham, which joined UUK’s predecessor organisation, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. Aldwyn Cooper, Regent’s vice-chancellor, said that as a UUK member, it “will be better placed to influence sector discussions and ensure our interests are represented”.

Researcher development
Institutions pass Vitae’s 2-year test

Another 11 universities have retained their European Commission HR Excellence in Research Award after a two-year review. A total of 49 institutions have now retained the accolade after receiving such a review, Vitae, which undertakes the reviews, confirmed on 6 March. The award recognises universities’ commitment to developing the careers of research staff and improving working conditions. Two years after gaining the award, institutions are asked to demonstrate their progress and describe the next steps they intend to take in a review. The 11 latest institutions to pass the check are Bath Spa University; the Institute of Education, University of London; King’s College London; Queen Mary University of London; Queen’s University Belfast; the Royal Veterinary College, University of London; and the universities of Brighton, Oxford, Southampton, Surrey and the West of England.

UK-China venture
£20m to fuel low-carbon future

The UK and China have agreed a joint programme that will make £20 million available for research into low-carbon technologies over three years. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Natural Science Foundation of China on 5 March. Each country has committed £10 million and £6.6 million will be released each year for projects in the areas of low-carbon manufacturing processes, low-carbon cities and offshore renewables. David Delpy, chief executive of the EPSRC, said that international collaborations “bring the best academic talents together to find the solutions that can benefit all”.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

When James Brokenshire, the new immigration minister, threatened to make it tougher for institutions to keep their student visa licences, there was bound to be a reaction online. Mr Brokenshire said that “when you look at the facts”, it was a “ludicrous fiction” that targets to reduce net migration were making UK universities less attractive to overseas students.

“I’m appalled by the attitude of the new immigration minister,” said @JamesWHarrison. @ElspethJones asked: “Is this guy for real?”

@dc_stevens said that “In light of the new Immigration Minister’s speech, I am starting a new hashtag – #PrayForInternationalStudents” and @acepins tweeted: “Methinks Mr Brokenshire is the one who hasn’t read the facts!”

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