News in brief - 24 July 2014

July 24, 2014

Student visas
Lords’ plea for rethink rebuffed

The chair of the Lords Science and Technology Committee has expressed disappointment that the government is unwilling to review its immigration policies. A report published by the committee in April said changes to immigration rules had led directly to a drop in international students in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. It called on the government to reconsider how it incorporates students into immigration targets. But the government dismissed the arguments, saying visa applications are on the rise, according to a statement from the committee. Lord Selborne, chair of the committee, said increased visa applications “do not necessarily lead to increased enrolments”. He said that although the government had confirmed it would make improvements to a scheme for helping STEM students gain visas, “this will be a small crumb of comfort to those who feel that overall the UK is unwelcoming”.

Antimicrobial resistance
MRC to lead joint research effort

A new initiative to tackle antimicrobial resistance, backed by all seven research councils and the Wellcome Trust, has been launched. The Medical Research Council will lead the project involving medical researchers, biologists, vets, engineers, economists, social scientists and mathematicians. Greg Clark, in his first announcement since becoming universities and science minister last week, said the “united strategy” will “provide a more coordinated approach to research gathering by bringing together leading cross-industry experts against what is one of today’s greatest scientific problems”. A recent report on antimicrobial resistance by the Commons Science and Technology Committee said cross-disciplinary collaboration was essential in tackling the problem, which experts believe could make current antibiotics ineffective within 20 years.

Modern languages teaching
Academy speaks up for change

Universities have called wide-ranging changes to modern languages A levels, whose “serious deficiencies” mean they are seen as “dull and uninspiring”. In a report into languages A levels published on 16 July, the A Level Content Advisory Board (Alcab), which was set up by the Russell Group to provide advice on A-level content, proposes “significant changes…designed to produce a rich and rewarding qualification”. It follows an investigation by a panel of leading academics, chaired by Stephen Parker, professor of German studies at the University of Manchester, which identifies five weaknesses in current modern languages A levels. These include the tendency to re-teach subjects addressed at GCSE, a desire to not penalise grammatical mistakes and a lack of understanding of linguistic systems.

Teacher education
Partnership vital, says TEAG head

John Cater, the vice-chancellor of Edge Hill University, has been named chair of the joint Universities UK and GuildHE Teacher Education Advisory Group. TEAG’s role is to advise UUK on issues affecting teacher education. The group meets at least three times a year, two of which include a meeting with colleagues from the National College for Teaching and Leadership, Ofsted, the Quality Assurance Agency, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Dr Cater said teachers were “best trained in close partnerships between universities and schools, and this agenda will drive my time in office”.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

A Times Higher Education article in which an academic claimed that workplace disputes, including allegations of bullying and other personnel complaints, needed to be handled better and faster by universities, had our Twitter followers’ tongues wagging. @UkelaTweets asked if there was a “catastrophic management failure” in the university sector, while @brigranville claimed that “bullying is common practice” in higher education. “Should these academics be made managers in the first place,” asked @rafajayon, adding that it was “a fundamental question that needs [to be] addressed” in reference to the article’s assertion that many senior scholars gain positions of responsibility based on academic rather than managerial achievements.

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