News in brief - 5 February 2015

February 5, 2015

University funding
Higher education, lower efficiency

Fewer than four out of 10 MPs think UK universities use their funding efficiently, according to a poll. A survey of 150 parliamentarians, carried out by ComRes for Universities UK, found that only 38 per cent felt higher education institutions did well at making efficient use of funding from the government, tuition fees and assets – the second-lowest score in the questionnaire. However, only 9 per cent felt that universities performed badly in this area, while the rest were neutral. University efficiency was rated even lower in a poll of 100 politicians considered likely to enter the House of Commons after the next election: only 30 per cent of respondents thought universities performed well and 15 per cent felt they performed badly. The results were revealed at the Universities and National Public Affairs Forum 2015, held on 29 January and organised by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Research impact
Matters of life and death

A selection of impact statements submitted by medical schools as part of the research excellence framework has been published by the Medical Schools Council. The MSC report showcases the effect that medical research has had on people, policy and the economy, both nationally and worldwide. Examples include University of Bristol research into cot death, which led to a change in advice to parents and a 54 per cent fall in related deaths nationwide. Health of the Nation: The Impact of UK Medical Schools’ Research lists 40 of the “most impressive” impact case studies submitted to the REF’s clinical medicine, public health, health services and primary care subpanels.

International students
Free them from the net (target)

A cross-party group of MPs has launched a fresh bid to remove international students from the UK’s net migration target. An early day motion, submitted by Labour’s Paul Blomfield with the support of Liberal Democrat Sir Andrew Stunell and Conservative Mark Field, has so far won the backing of 51 MPs. The motion calls on the government to remove university students from “any target to reduce net migration” and expresses concern about the “dramatic drop” in the number of people enrolling at UK higher education institutions from some countries. The public does not generally view international students as migrants and does not wish to see their number reduced, the motion claims. Among the MPs who have backed it to date are three House of Commons select committee chairs – Keith Vaz (home affairs), Adrian Bailey (business, innovation and skills) and Andrew Miller (science and technology).

International students
Special relationship

Data released by Ucas have shown a 5 per cent increase in undergraduate applications to the UK from the US. More than 3,000 US students had applied to study for undergraduate degrees at UK universities by the time of Ucas’ main January deadline, the British Council said. The record-breaking level of interest from applicants across the Atlantic is thought to be a result of efforts by British institutions to boost their overseas recruitment. Twelve UK universities have also joined the US Common Application system, making it easier for students there to apply for undergraduate courses here. But the traffic is two-way: last year, more than 10,000 UK students completed their studies in the US.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Last week, Times Higher Education asked if academics’ “invisible” but invaluable activities risked being sidelined as work pressure increases. Twitter responded with a resounding “yes”: scholars do feel that acts of academic citizenship are being squeezed in the rush to increase research publication output. @LilithJournal said the article raised “pertinent thoughts for academic citizenship”, while @morgnshtern asked: “What about essential under-the-radar academic work in an increasingly careerist academy?” In response to the questions raised by the article, @ivorytowerjourn wrote: “we call it ‘service’”. @kim_mckee simply answered that academic citizenship was “absolutely” being sidelined.

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