News in brief - 18 September 2014

September 18, 2014

Disabled Students’ Allowance
Clark delays cuts until 2016

The government has postponed controversial cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance until 2016-17. Greg Clark, the universities, science and cities minister, made a written ministerial statement on 12 September, announcing that changes to non-medical help will be postponed. David Willetts, the former universities and science minister, proposed the changes in April, and was branded “arrogant and out of touch” by the National Union of Students over the “unfair” cuts. Originally planned for 2015-16, the reforms would oblige universities to take greater responsibility for the costs of the DSA, which can pay for assistance including specialist equipment such as computers and software; non-medical helpers, such as a note-taker or reader; and extra travel costs. Mr Clark says that “concern was conveyed that some universities may not be able to meet their obligations in full by the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, given their need to invest in additional support for their students”.

European Commission
Moedas mooted for research role

Carlos Moedas has been named European Commissioner-designate for research, science and innovation. If approved by the European Parliament, Mr Moedas, a secretary of state to the Portuguese prime minister, will succeed Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, who has held the post since 2010. Writing to Mr Moedas on 10 September, the president-elect of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, asked him to focus on applied research and to seek greater private-sector participation in programmes such as Horizon 2020. The League of European Research Universities has called on the Commissioner-designate to recognise the “broad, pervasive and long-term benefits of university research”. Mr Moedas, a former banker, has a civil engineering degree.

Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre
Manchester to host £60m facility

The chancellor, George Osborne, has announced that a graphene innovation centre will be established at the University of Manchester. The £60 million Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre is intended to help the UK to exploit the substance and related two-dimensional materials. Half the funding comes from an Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company, Masdar. The Higher Education Funding Council for England’s UK Research Partnership Investment Fund and Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) are also funders. More than 200 scientists and engineers already work on graphene at the National Graphene Institute, also based at Manchester.

Black British Academics network
Leaders invited to listen

An annual forum aimed at helping vice-chancellors and other senior university leaders to devise firm strategies for improving race equality in UK universities is being launched next month. The Black British Academics network, which is organising the Leaders’ Forum at the University of Westminster on 8 October, hopes the event will boost collaboration between senior managers and black and ethnic minority staff and students, who it says would not otherwise have much opportunity to influence policymaking on the subject. The inaugural forum will present findings of the organisation’s recent Race Equality Survey – which found that nearly 60 per cent of BME staff and students felt they have been discriminated against – in the form of poems read by writer and academic Martin Glynn.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

There were plenty of comments on our survey of Scottish higher education staff’s voting intentions in the independence referendum. @MillerLyndsay showed solidarity with fellow “yes” voters, tweeting: “Great to see that my Scottish colleagues in the arts&humanities know where it’s at.” The apparent difference in opinion between arts/humanities and science academics was picked up on by @dawnbazely, who tweeted: “Fascinating. A portrait of how views on balancing self-interest vs. common good vary across disciplines, perhaps?” But @richwestsoley said he was “surprised yes is still so high, given potential damage Indy may do to HE funding”. And “Majority of Scottish academics set to vote ‘no’…and that includes me #nothanks” was the blunt response from @CT_Microbiol.

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