News in brief - 4 December 2014

December 4, 2014

Undergraduate admissions
Drop in early Ucas applications

The number of UK students who have applied early to university has fallen by 3 per cent, new interim figures show. Some 110,460 home students applied for undergraduate study by the third week of November, Ucas revealed on November. That is almost 4,000 fewer than the 114,450 who had applied at the same point last year and lower than the comparable numbers in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 cycles. Applicant numbers from England have fallen even more sharply, down by 4 per cent to 98,930. However, applications from non-UK European Union students are up by 4 per cent to 9,320 and international student applicants by 2 per cent to 17,770. In a tweet, Ucas said the interim figures are an “unreliable guide” to student demand in 2015. The full picture will be revealed at the end of January, which will show the number of students who apply by Ucas’ 15 January final deadline, it added. Those who submitted applications by November last year made up just a quarter of all applicants in the 2014 applications cycle, it said.

Research translation
ICURe to tackle ‘valley of death’

Five universities in the South of England will be given training, mentoring and funding to help speed up the commercialisation of their research. The £3.2 million ICURe project, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Innovate UK, is designed to help bridge the “valley of death”, in which research ideas fail to be translated into commercial applications. It was inspired by a scheme run by the US National Science Foundation and focuses on early career researchers at universities in the SETsquared partnership, whose members are the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey.

Smith Commission
Scottish post-study visas mooted

Political parties have agreed to consider the introduction of a new post-study work visa scheme for international students in Scotland. The proposal appears in the final report of the Smith Commission, which has recommended which additional powers should be devolved from Westminster. However, no additional powers need to be devolved to allow the scheme to become a reality. Instead, the five political parties in the Scottish Parliament have agreed that the UK and Holyrood governments should work together to “explore the possibility of introducing formal schemes to allow international higher education students graduating from Scottish further and higher education institutions to remain in Scotland and contribute to economic activity for a defined period of time”, the report says. The agreement responds to calls from higher education and business leaders, who warned that Scotland’s economic growth was being hampered by skills shortages.

GuildHE
Westwood departs for Manchester

The chief executive of GuildHE, Andy Westwood, is to leave the organisation to take up a new role at the University of Manchester helping it to connect with government. Mr Westwood, a former special adviser to Labour’s John Denham in his time as secretary of state for universities, will become associate vice-president for public affairs at Manchester in February 2015. The university said in a statement that he would be “responsible for ensuring that the university is able to respond to and adapt to changes in the external political and policy environment and thereby contribute to raising its profile”. GuildHE will be recruiting a new chief executive early in 2015.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

A research team’s attempt to predict the results of the 2014 research excellence framework using the “h-index” which, broadly speaking, measures a scholar’s (or, in this context, a department’s) citations versus the number of academic papers produced, had our Twitter followers talking. After taking in the results, @MikeSav47032563 said “this suggests to me that h index biased to elite institutions and not necessarily badge of quality”, while @katatrepsis was happy that Leeds was predicted to come in sixth for biology. “Looking good!” he tweeted. “Will the h-index predict REF 2014 results?” asked @rwatson1955, while @Moriarty2112 seemingly had the answer. “*Please* stop giving credence to simplistic metrics like the h-index,” he said.

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