News in brief – 2 April 2015

April 2, 2015

Postgraduate study
BIS weighs restrictions on loans

The government is considering whether to restrict postgraduate research loans to subjects “where the scientific and economic case is strongest”. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills raised the possibility in a consultation published on 25 March that looks at the proposed £10,000 loans for postgraduate taught students and £25,000 loans for postgraduate research students announced by George Osborne, the chancellor, in December’s Autumn Statement and last month’s Budget respectively. The consultation sets out the proposed repayment terms for postgraduate taught student loans, which would mean anyone who also has an undergraduate loan paying 18 per cent of their salary above £21,000. Although there are few details on the proposed loans for PhD and research master’s students, the consultation asks if the government should “prioritise specific subjects where the scientific and economic case is strongest, or instead provide broad support to all subjects, even if this means capping the total number of loans or offering them on less generous terms?”. The consultation closes on 29 May 2015.

Two new v-cs join board

Two university leaders have joined the board of the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Sir Keith Burnett and Mary Stuart, vice-chancellors of the University of Sheffield and University of Lincoln respectively, took up the posts last month after their candidatures were approved by universities minister Greg Clark. Sir Keith replaces Sir Malcolm Grant, former provost of University College London, while Professor Stuart takes over from John Widdowson, principal and chief executive of New College Durham. Mark Robson, head of statistics and regulatory data at the Bank of England, has been reappointed for a further three years.

Early career researchers
Cash for chemists

A new programme has been developed by the British Council and the Royal Society of Chemistry to support early career researchers. The two organisations will work together as part of a scheme that comes under the auspices of the Newton Fund, a £375 million five-year initiative to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote economic development. The new programme aims to build links between chemists in the UK and other countries and encourage senior researchers to act as mentors and share their knowledge and expertise. Workshops open to junior scholars will take place in Indonesia and South Africa later this year. Travel grants are also available as part of the programme. David Clark, head of international development at the RSC, said: “We hope that the skills and knowledge developed through this partnership will make a significant contribution to fields such as energy, human health and new materials, as well as the underpinning science”.

New knight at the helm

Sir Gordon Duff, the principal of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, has been appointed chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. He will succeed Sir Tom Blundell, who has held the position for the past six years. Sir Gordon chairs the Strategic Partners Board of the Imperial Academic Health Science Centre, and was previously chair of the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Greg Clark, the universities and science minister, said that Sir Gordon will bring a “depth of knowledge and experience” to the position. Sir Gordon will take up the post on 1 July and serve for four years. He will receive an honorarium of £16,340 per year.

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A first-person account by Miwa Hirono, the scholar on China who has left the UK and her permanent academic post after the Home Office continued its actions against her, provoked anger among our Twitter followers. @GrahamatAFK said the article detailed “the warped reality of our utterly dysfunctional immigration system”, while @profgeddes derided the “astonishingly stupid decision by the Home Office”. @DrMLHarris said “another highly-skilled migrant” had been “sacrificed on the altar of the daft Tory ‘tens of thousands’ immigration pledge”.

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