News in brief - 14 November 2013

November 14, 2013

Scotland/Hong Kong partnership
Research symbiosis

Ministers from Scotland and Hong Kong have signed an agreement for researchers from the two countries’ universities to collaborate more closely. Research teams would “explore innovative new ways of working together”, a statement from the Scottish government announced. Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, said that the agreement would particularly benefit the country’s life sciences and energy industries. The deal was signed on 6 November during a four-day trade visit by Mr Salmond to China, during which it was also announced that a Confucius Institute would be set up at Heriot-Watt University. The institutes are designed to spread knowledge of China’s language and culture, and the new one at Heriot-Watt will be Scotland’s fifth.

Digital services
Hall appointed Jisc chair

Martin Hall, vice-chancellor of the University of Salford, has been appointed the new chair of Jisc, the UK’s provider for digital services for higher education. He succeeds Sir Tim O’Shea, vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, and will take up the position from January next year. “Sir Tim will be a very hard act to follow, but I am looking forward to the challenge,” Professor Hall said. “I recognise this role will be key in overseeing the change and continuing development of Jisc to ensure it makes its crucial contribution to the UK higher education, further education and skills sectors most efficiently and effectively.” Professor Hall has led Salford since August 2009, joining from the University of Cape Town, where he had been deputy vice-chancellor for six years.

UK/Irish quality oversight
Standards bearers hook up

The UK’s standards watchdog has signed a deal to share information with its Irish counterpart. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education and Quality and Qualifications Ireland will share examples of good practice, including how to assure the standards of university courses offered overseas, as part of the partnership. It will also cooperate on identifying bogus awarding bodies or accrediting agencies in both countries. The deal is the ninth international agreement signed by the QAA to help boost standards globally. “With the increasing globalisation of higher education, it is vital that the UK has strong collaborative arrangements with quality assurance agencies in other countries,” said Anthony McClaran, the QAA’s chief executive.

Postgraduate careers
Those who can, teach

The number of top graduates taking up teaching as a career is higher than ever before, according to the latest government figures. A breakdown of the performance profiles of more than ,000 postgraduate teacher trainees who started in 2011-12 found that two-thirds had either a first or a 2:1. According to the Department for Education figures, more than 3,000 trainees (12 per cent) had a first-class degree, a rise of two percentage points over 2010‑11, while more than half of trainees had a 2:1, a rise of one percentage point. The number starting their training with a 2:2 fell two percentage points. Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership, said the figures showed that teaching was “attracting more of the country’s top-tier graduates”.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Our feature about rudeness in the academy prompted readers to share their own tales of bad manners in higher education. @racybaldhero recalled attending a “full day at interview: presentation am/interview pm. Not even offered glass of water. Unemployed: no money for lunch.” @StephenSenn admitted to telling tardy medical students that although “they were training for a lifetime of keeping patients waiting…[the] prof [is] not a suitable guinea pig”, while @JohnnySRich remembered asking a philosophy department secretary why he had been “left off a list of students”, and being told: “you don’t exist”. Finally, @dawnbazely tweeted: “In 1990, I was a newly arrived prof, meeting colleagues. One said ‘BUT, I thought we hired a MAN’.”

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