News in brief - 19 June 2014

June 19, 2014

Post-study work visas
MPs set to launch inquiry

MPs are to hold an inquiry into the closure of the post-study work route for international students. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration will look at the effect of the change on universities, students and local economies. Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central and chair of the parliamentary group, said that it would be “making recommendations to the government based on what we hear”. The post-study work route, which gave international students the automatic right to work in the UK for two years after graduation, was closed by the government in April 2012. Its abolition is viewed by universities as having deterred Indian students, in particular, from coming to the UK.

Sustainability
Green scheme gets £34m boost

A programme to help higher education institutions start carbon-saving projects will receive another multimillion-pound tranche of support. Following an evaluation of the first three rounds of the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Revolving Green Fund, which “confirmed the effectiveness of the scheme”, a further £34 million will be invested. The next round will be run in partnership with Salix Finance, an independent not-for-profit company that specialises in providing interest-free loans to public sector organisations for energy efficiency. The new round will also offer support, for the first time, to projects aiming to reduce water usage. Madeleine Atkins, Hefce chief executive, said: “The fund is a very good and effective way to help universities improve their sustainability and achieve financial savings. The review has clearly demonstrated the scheme’s value and I’m happy to announce this next round of funding.”

Knowledge transfer
LSE talks policy with politicians

A new parliamentary scheme has been launched by the Institute of Public Affairs at the London School of Economics. The initiative will bring in three prominent politicians to help the school better deploy the results of its academic research within the policy arena. Those involved are the prominent Tory backbencher David Davis; the Labour MP and former secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills, John Denham; and Baroness Ludford, a Liberal Democrat member of the Lords and a former MEP. Welcoming “these three independent-minded parliamentarians” to the institute, director Conor Gearty said that “each of them has an immense amount of relevant experience to bring to the IPA, and in turn we hope to be able to assist them in their own policy work”.

Student finance
Cash woes draw loan sharks: study

Tens of thousands of undergraduates in the UK are relying on payday loans or doorstep lending to fund their studies, a new survey suggests. One in 50 has turned to lenders that typically charge very high interest rates, according to the results of a poll of 3,654 students and applicants, conducted by the National Union of Students and commissioned by the accommodation firm Unite. Students Matter: The Unite Student Experience Survey 2014 Summary Report also found that six in 10 university applicants said they did not know whether their funding package would meet their expenses while studying. Eleven per cent of undergraduates had resorted to using credit cards to pay for living costs, while another 28 per cent had made use of an overdraft. Meanwhile, nearly half those surveyed said they had had to rely on financial support from their families, but 28 per cent said they had managed not to take on any debt at all.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

The start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil last week had some of our Twitter followers musing on which players would feature if the higher education sector were eligible to take part. Using the hashtag #HEsquad, they picked out some star names. @smitajamdar suggested that “Emile HEFCE” should play up front, while @Stuartisaacs1 would start with “Nietzsche on the right” and “Marx on the left”. @Cash4Questions pointed out that the squad would hope to avoid the “Russell Group of death”, and @drnickpearce observed sagely that “all the #HEsquad already hate the REF”.

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