News in brief - 21 November 2013

November 21, 2013

Public engagement
Museum piece of the action

A report has set out the many contributions university museums make to teaching, research and national life more broadly. Impact and Engagement: University Museums for the 21st Century was launched at the Museums Association Conference, held in Liverpool on 11-12 November. Published by the University Museums Group and University Museums in Scotland, the report argues that young people’s first contact with higher education institutions is often made via museums, which “play an important role in stimulating an interest in further study and overcoming barriers to higher education”. They are often “the only or main space” within universities where “academic-public engagement can take place”, it adds. The report states that university museums in England and Scotland hosted 200 exhibitions and 3,500 public events last year, and welcomed nearly 4 million visitors.

Student loans
Green alert over sell-off

The Green Party has organised protests across the country against plans to sell off the student loan book. A “Day of Action” on 20 November was expected to feature hundreds of students and graduates, the party said. In June, Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, said that the government would raise £15 billion by 2020 by selling off public assets such as the student loan book. Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said that privatisation of the book would lead the UK towards an “American-style education system, where studying for a degree can mean being in debt for life”. But a spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the department had “categorically” ruled out changing the terms of the interest rates charged to graduates with pre-2012 loans. “Borrowers’ terms and conditions are set down in regulations and will not be changed as part of any sale,” he said.

International collaboration
Go West, young scholars

The European Research Council has signed an agreement that will enable top early career researchers from South Korea to join research teams in Europe. The initiative, signed on 8 November, aims to bring the best researchers together to exchange ideas and promote knowledge, and is part of an existing agreement signed by the European Union and South Korea in 2006. Korean scientists will become part of teams working on ERC-funded projects for six to 12 months and will be supported through council grants in the same way as any other team member. The ERC signed a similar agreement with the US National Science Foundation in July 2012.

Delivery in the UK

The British Council has won the contract to deliver the multimillion-pound Erasmus+ scheme in the UK, alongside consultancy firm Ecorys. Erasmus+ will run from 2014 to 2020 and will bring together a number of existing European university mobility schemes under one umbrella. It will offer funding for student placements of up to a year in another European country and staff exchanges of up to two months in duration. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has estimated that the scheme, which is funded by the European Commission, will be worth £793 million to the UK over its six-year lifespan. The department also hopes that Erasmus+ will increase the relatively low number of British students studying abroad and make them more employable.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

News that the 1994 Group of small research-intensive universities will close got readers talking. “The 94 group news is big, but hugely predictable,” tweeted @samogotchi. He said that the body was a shadow of what it once was and asked whether its demise would “shore up” the Russell Group’s dominance. He then added that the loss of the group would cause only “a flicker in Wonk circles”. By contrast, the break-up caught @beckyfh by surprise. “Missed that 1994 Group disbanded,” she tweeted. “Just weeks before, I’d heard Kent was about to join!”

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