News in brief - 20 February 2014

February 20, 2014

N8 Research Partnership
Share options pay dividends

A consortium of universities in the North of England has built a toolkit to help guide institutions looking to share equipment. The N8 Research Partnership’s toolkit offers guidelines and templates on issues such as health and safety, pricing and charging, contracts and legal issues and VAT. The templates can be used to create tailor-made agreements within one university or across several. Universities are increasingly being encouraged to share equipment that is too expensive for one institution alone in a bid to make efficiency savings. The toolkit project was led by Luke Georghiou, vice-president of research and innovation at the University of Manchester, who said the toolkit “makes sharing a realistic and practical prospect”.

National Union of Students
Pearce faces multiple challengers

A UK Independence Party activist and an anti-cuts campaigner are to challenge National Union of Students president Toni Pearce for the organisation’s leadership. Jack Duffin, secretary of Ukip’s youth wing, Young Independence, and a prospective parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, is one of four candidates on the ballot for president at this year’s national elections. Mr Duffin says he is running because “education in this country is substandard at best and declining”. Joining him in the race is University of London Union vice-president Daniel Lemberger-Cooper, a former student union president at Royal Holloway, University of London who has been a high-profile campaigner against privatisation, cuts and the closure of ULU’s student union. Aaron Kiely, NUS’ black students’ officer, is also running, although Ms Pearce is the overwhelming favourite to retain the presidency when votes are cast at the NUS’ annual national conference in Liverpool in April.

University of Oxford
Bodleian head unveiled

The University of Oxford has announced the appointment of Richard Ovenden as Bodley’s Librarian. After six months as interim librarian, Mr Ovenden succeeds Sarah Thomas in a role with overall responsibility for collections together consisting of more than 11 million printed items, 50,000 e-journals and a vast quantity of other materials. Mr Ovenden joined the Bodleian in 2003 as keeper of special collections and became deputy librarian in 2011. Dr Thomas’ six years in the job were marked by controversies over the rehousing of the vast humanities collections, a plan to move the library entrance to the historic Radcliffe Camera building, and staff unhappy at being asked to wear “ask me” badges. She was also responsible for a major renovation of the New Bodleian, due to reopen as the Weston Library in October 2014, before taking up the vice-presidency of Harvard Library.

Nesta grant call
Small groups’ big impact in focus

A charity is offering five grants of £10,000 for research into how to harness data to explore small-scale activity in the third sector and civil society. Nesta, an innovation charity, is seeking new ways of measuring the work of “below the radar” groups, such as small voluntary groups and community organisations, which are not usually included in formal databases or registers. It is accepting proposals from universities, research organisations, charities, companies and consultancies. Proposals should be submitted by 4 March, and projects are expected to start by the end of March.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

A report suggesting that elite universities are as socially exclusive as ever, despite spending millions of pounds on outreach activities, had tongues wagging among our Twitter followers. “The poor are a gamble. Their drop out rate is high & leads to a loss of a bum on a seat i.e. grand, so why bother,” tweeted @marie_morley, perhaps with tongue in cheek, while @lescarr, in a similarly sarcastic tone, said it was not the universities that were to blame. “Darn the poor and their lack of progress!” he said. “Oh look, family money stills buys educational privilege,” added @ProfDaveAndress. “Well, colour me not very surprised this morning.”

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