News in brief - 23 May 2013

May 23, 2013

Efficiency savings
In praise of super scrimpers

Universities saved £1.38 billion between 2005 and 2011 by sharing high-value resources and using innovative technologies, a report has found. Examples of efficiency-saving initiatives include a £3.25 million high- performance computing facility shared across the N8 group of universities, a £460,000 scheme at the University of Manchester to record lectures and release them as podcasts, and a major increase in the opportunities offered through the University of Oxford careers service for the same expenditure. The report, Making the Best Better, was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and produced by the director of the N8, Sarah Jackson. It is intended to recognise progress made by the sector in the wake of the 2010 Diamond report and to help inform the upcoming government spending review.

International Scholarships
New funding for five researchers

The five recipients of the 2013 Higher Education Academy’s International Scholarships have been announced. The awards are given to researchers looking at international pedagogical developments that could benefit the UK; subject areas this year include assessment and feedback in creative subjects and using technology to enhance student learning. Now in their second year, the awards have been renamed the Professor Sir Ron Cooke International Scholarship Awards in recognition of the former University of York vice-chancellor’s “distinguished leadership” in learning and teaching in higher education. The five scholars are Joelle Adams (Bath Spa University), Sonja J. Ellis (Sheffield Hallam University), Suanne Gibson (Plymouth University), Jenny Gilbert (University of Bedfordshire) and Franziska Schroeder (Queen’s University Belfast).

Technology Strategy Board
£50 million boost for innovation

The government’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, will receive a £50 million boost to its budget this year, the government has announced. The board, which aims to support innovative businesses and to drive growth across the UK, will receive £440 million in the 2013-14 financial year, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced on 14 May. About 60 per cent of the board’s funding each year goes to small and medium-sized businesses, and last year about a quarter of all funding was channelled to universities through academic-business collaborations. The scheme that will profit most from the increase in funding will be the board’s network of “Catapults”: seven physical centres dedicated to different technologies and designed to help companies access equipment and bring research to market.

Transnational education
British Council: mixed feelings

A British Council study has found that transnational education can help to train students to fill skills gaps in host countries but also warned that it can contribute to a brain drain and has not led to enhanced research. Based on interviews with students, graduates and experts in 10 host countries, the report, Preliminary Findings from Research Project on the Impact of TNE on Host Countries, states that “the overall impression is one of growth and a relatively positive perception”. Yet it also found evidence that transnational education was “exacerbating brain drain and in some case not meeting technical and science skills gaps”.

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