News in brief - 2 October 2014

October 2, 2014

Research Excellence Framework
Impact case studies, studied

A new project will look at the impact on society of academic research
conducted at universities. The research, commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, will look at the almost 7,000 impact case studies that academics submitted to the 2014 research excellence framework. It will draw out the common themes and messages from the case studies and make them freely available in an online database that can be interrogated by researchers. The work will be carried out by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and Digital Science, a division of Macmillan Science and Education, and Nature Publishing Group. The group will publish the results in spring 2015, and a summary will be published in a supplement of the journal Nature.

Modern languages
Support for Ofqual plan of action

Academics and headteachers have given their support to a report by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations (Ofqual) that calls attention to unpredictable and inaccurate grades in modern language A levels and commits itself to taking action in time for next summer’s exams. Concerns have long been expressed about the low percentage of A* grades awarded, and Ofqual has now acknowledged that many questions “were not effective in differentiating between students of different abilities, especially between the most able”. Steve Parker, who chairs the modern languages panel of the A-level Content Advisory Board set up by the Russell Group in 2013, welcomed the proposed improvements to assessment methods. He said that the changes would mean “we can be confident that the best candidates get the highest grades”.

Welsh language university study
Student numbers up by 16 per cent

The number of students at Welsh universities who receive some teaching in the Welsh language has risen by 16 per cent year-on-year, official data show. There were 5,465 students on courses that delivered at least some tuition through the medium of Welsh during 2012-13, according to a statistical bulletin from the Welsh government. The proportion of students being taught in Welsh in the country’s universities also rose, from 3.6 per cent to 4.2 per cent. Of those students, 2,425 were enrolled at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, where one in five students received some teaching in Welsh, and 1,330 were at Bangor University. In addition to programmes focused on the study of the Welsh language, degree courses in education, creative arts and subjects allied to medicine were among those to include some Welsh language teaching.

Athena SWAN awards
Nottingham scores overseas first

An overseas branch campus of a UK university has secured an award for its work on gender equality. The Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus has become the first overseas entity to achieve the Equity Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN award. The award recognises commitment in higher education to the progression of women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine. Overall, 83 higher education institutions, research institutes and individual schools and departments will receive awards in the latest round. The University of Cambridge achieved a prestigious silver institution award, which is currently held by only five institutions. Later this year the ECU will launch a pilot project to extend the Athena SWAN awards to the Republic of Ireland.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

The 2015 Times Higher Education Best University Workplace Survey is now live, and all UK higher education employees are eligible to take part. Our Twitter followers have been urging their peers and colleagues to get involved. @EmmaJ70 contended that the answer to the question of which university was the best was already clear: Loughborough. “Fill it in if you agree,” she added. “Tell them what you love (and loathe) about York,” said @PeteQyork, while @mikerobiologist urged one of last year’s survey participants – who said he had not taken annual leave in eight years – to “leave work early today so you have the time to book a holiday”. To take part, visit

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