News in brief - 17 April 2014

April 17, 2014

Research partnerships
UK-Brazil match scheduled

The UK is to spend £375 million on a scheme to promote scientific ties between the UK and key emerging economies. The Newton Fund, announced last week by chancellor George Osborne during a trade mission to Brazil, will fund research and innovation partnerships and student exchange between partner countries and the UK, with the aim of promoting the UK as “an international partner of choice” in scientific collaborations. Brazil’s Association of State Funding Agencies has become the first partner in the scheme, signing a match-funding agreement for both partners to commit £3 million a year for three years to fund collaborative research in areas such as food security, future cities, bio-economy and neglected diseases. Mr Osborne said: “Partnerships with countries such as Brazil, which are rapidly increasing their investments in scientific research, will help strengthen ties between our countries and deliver new economic opportunities for us both.”

A-level reform
‘Backward step’ for science exams

Scientists have reacted angrily to changes in A-level content announced by Michael Gove. On 9 April the education secretary published “revised content” for A levels in a number of subjects – including biology, chemistry and physics – to be taught starting in September 2015. But the Campaign for Science and Engineering said that Ofqual, the exams regulator, had opted to “remove the examination of practicals from A-level grades in science”, calling this “a backwards step for science skills in the UK”. Imran Khan, chief executive of the British Science Association, said: “Science is a way of looking at and thinking about the world, not a body of facts. You wouldn’t dream of assessing other practical subjects – like languages, music, or design – by a written test alone, and the same should be true of science.”

Entrepreneurial universities
Spread it around, says QAA

The “very core” of universities must embrace enterprise, argues a report on the creation of entrepreneurial campuses commissioned by QAA Scotland. Institutions need to move entrepreneurship out of business schools and embed it in every department if they are to create the types of campuses outlined in the QAA’s 2012 guidelines on enterprise, according to the report, published on 8 April. It recommended that sessions on entrepreneurship be taught in the curriculum and offered as extracurricular programmes across the university. Author Colin Mason, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Glasgow, said this will “create an environment in which students are inspired and empowered to develop enterprising capabilities”. The report features case studies from several Scottish universities.

Widening participation
Wales leads UK on access

Welsh universities have a better record on widening access than the UK as a whole, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The figures show that 92.7 per cent of young, full-time undergraduate entrants in Wales for 2012-13 were state educated, against 89.5 per cent for the whole of the UK. In Wales, 13.1 per cent of such students came from neighbourhoods with low rates of participation in higher education, against a national average of 11.1 per cent. On both these measures, Welsh institutions are also performing better than in 2011-12.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Our story about the uncertain future of the Higher Education Academy after UK funding councils decided to withdraw support for the champion of university teaching elicited expressions of concern. @DanDerricott was “horrified by the complete withdrawal of funding council support”, and @KEHplantsci called it “potentially worrying news for teaching standards”. “It’s good to know that HE teaching is valued so much,” tweeted @DrDavidCooper with a hint of sarcasm. Meanwhile, @g_eds appears to have narrowly avoided being one of the academy staff now facing redundancies. “HEA funding to be cut – further evidence I was lucky being so late to that interview,” he tweeted.

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