News in brief - 6 March 2014

March 6, 2014

Study visas
Subcontinental drift

The latest migration figures indicated another sharp drop in the number of students from the Indian subcontinent coming to the UK, although the overall number of student visas issued increased. The number of visas issued to Pakistani students was down 55 per cent in the year to December 2013 and down 21 per cent for Indians, according to the Office for National Statistics. However, the number of visas issued to Chinese, Malaysian and Brazilian students rose. Overall in 2013, the number of student visas issued was up 4 per cent. The figures came against the backdrop of a huge rise in net migration to 212,000 in the year to September 2013, denting the government’s hopes of reducing it to the “tens of thousands” by 2015.

European research funding
Swiss frozen out

Swiss-based researchers will no longer be able to apply for European Research Council grants after its referendum decision to restrict immigration from other European Union member states, the European Commission has confirmed. After the 9 February referendum, Switzerland declined to sign a protocol extending free movement to Croatians. The EU responded by breaking off negotiations on the country’s participation as an “associate member” of Horizon 2020 and the Erasmus+ student exchange programme. Following a debate in the European Parliament on 26 February, the commission now says that negotiations on Switzerland’s participation as an associate country in Horizon 2020 “could not be completed”. It will be deemed a “third country”, at least for 2014, which means that its universities and businesses can continue to participate in Horizon 2020 programmes but will not automatically be eligible for funding. Swiss-based researchers will also be unable to apply for ERC grants.

Unpaid work
Teachers put in most hours

Teaching professionals who work unpaid overtime put in an extra 12 hours a week on average – the highest of any profession, a new study claims. According to data from the Labour Force Survey 2013 obtained by the Trade Unions Congress, 54 per cent of teaching and education professionals in schools, colleges and universities do extra unpaid work each week, more than any other group of employees. Those who do unpaid overtime put in 12 hours a week on average, exceeding that done by managers and directors of financial institutions (11.5 hours), legal professionals (9.2 hours) and health professionals (6.3 hours). The overtime figures reflect answers given by the entire teaching profession, which totals about 1.4 million people, of whom about 170,000 (12 per cent) are higher education teaching professionals, according to the ONS.

Pathway providers
So INTO America now

INTO University Partnerships, a firm that offers pathway courses to international students as a route on to degrees, is to expand its model into George Mason University in the US. In a joint statement, the partners said that the university’s existing pathway programmes would be “greatly expanded” as a result of the deal and that the partnership would add 1,000 more international students to the university’s student body over the next five years, an increase of about 50 per cent. The majority of INTO joint ventures are in the UK, but the company is now focusing on expansion in the US, where the proportion of international students is much lower.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

News that Swiss-based researchers will no longer be able to apply for European Research Council grants after its referendum decision to restrict immigration from other European Union member states had our Twitter followers’ tongues wagging. “Sad story; but you can’t have it both ways,” tweeted @markmccarthyoxf; “Don’t mess with the EU,” added @Fielding20. “First swiss lose access to Erasmus now reduced access to horizon2020,” said @maxandersen. “That vote was just awesome for progress.” @c_d_hewson was looking on the bright side, pointing out that there would now be “less competition [for grants] for the UK”.

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