News in brief - 30 January 2014

January 30, 2014

University of Glasgow
Whistleblower joins rector race

Edward Snowden is standing as a candidate to be rector of the University of Glasgow. The whistleblower, who leaked documents revealing US and UK mass surveillance tactics, agreed to run after students started an “Edward Snowden for Rector” campaign. Reacting to the news, the campaign released a statement claiming that Mr Snowden’s candidacy “would provide a unique opportunity to show our gratitude to a brave whistleblower”. They are said to have contacted Mr Snowden, who leaked documents while working as a contractor for the US National Security Agency, to ask him to agree to run for the student-elected post. Mr Snowden, who currently resides in Russia and is seeking permanent asylum, will compete against Scottish writer Alan Bissett, clergyman Kelvin Holdsworth and world record-breaking cyclist Graeme Obree for the role.

Natural Environment Research Council
Full privatisation is no-go area

The Natural Environment Research Council would not contemplate fully privatising its centres, its chief executive has pledged. The remark from Duncan Wingham came during a one-off evidence session held by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee to examine Nerc’s proposal to change the ownership and governance of four of its research centres: the National Oceanography Centre, the British Geological Survey, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. Professor Wingham said Nerc would “not contemplate” any arrangement that undermined its role in ensuring national capacity, expertise and access to data. “But I don’t wish to rule things out, and there are many halfway houses between full public ownership and fully privatised,” he added.

Digital currency? That’ll do nicely

The University of Cumbria has become the first UK institution to accept Bitcoin for the payment of tuition fees. Students will be able to use the online currency, which is accepted by thousands of retailers worldwide, for two of the university’s courses, both of which examine the role of “complementary currencies”. In November last year, the private University of Nicosia in Cyprus became the first institution to announce that it would accept Bitcoin as payment for tuition, but Cumbria believes that it is the first publicly funded institution to do so. Acceptance of the internet currency will initially be limited to the two programmes: the certificate of achievement in sustainable exchange, which will be taught from the university’s London campus in July, and the postgraduate certificate in sustainable leadership, which will be taught from its Cumbria campus in June.

European Research Council
Veep if you love research

Núria Sebastián Gallés has been named the new vice-president of the European Research Council. She will join the two existing vice-presidents of the organisation, who have been in post since April 2011. A review and task force previously recommended that the ERC bring another vice-president on board in July 2011 to help clarify and strengthen the governance of the council. Professor Sebastián Gallés is a professor of psychology at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. She has been a member of the ERC’s scientific council since April 2013 and will now be responsible for the social science and humanities domain.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

News that Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, accepted a £105,000 pay rise despite resisting calls to implement the living wage for some staff had our Twitter followers up in arms. According to published accounts, the pay package of Sir Keith rose by 39 per cent to £374,000 last year, up from £269,000 in 2011‑12. “As someone working in HE, I find this incredible,” tweeted @ForzaKDS. “Ask students to pay 9k p.a. Year later award VC 105k RISE. Immoral.” “Good grief, more evidence of VCs taking the piss with ludicrous pay rises,” chipped in @einarthorsen, while @mrnking asked “how can there be so much disparity in University staff wages?”

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