News in brief - 6 November 2014

November 6, 2014

Scottish pensions
Control ‘should be fully devolved’

Scotland’s largest teaching union has suggested that control over a lecturers’ pension scheme could be devolved to Holyrood. The Educational Institute of Scotland said the retention of overall control of the Scottish Teachers’ Superannuation Scheme by the UK Treasury – even though the Edinburgh government is responsible for administering it – had led to the collapse of negotiations last year. Increases in contributions from scheme members, including lecturers at post-92 universities, were an “austerity tax to raise finance” for Westminster, claimed Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary. The union said that the Smith Commission, which is reviewing which additional powers should be devolved, should consider this change of control.

Immigration
Borysiewicz attacks ‘parochialism’

The vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge has criticised the “ever more parochial” attitude to immigration in the UK, warning that it was “positively detrimental” to higher education. In remarks that appeared to respond to claims by Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, that some towns were being “swamped” by immigrants and that their residents were feeling “under siege”, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz warned that government policies aimed at restricting immigration were likely to “damage British national interests”. Speaking before Bonnie Greer, the writer, gave Cambridge’s annual race-equality lecture, Sir Leszek stated in a written version of his comments: “As the v-c of a global university, I am encountering attitudes and policy decisions which seem ever more parochial and positively detrimental to the work of the higher education sector. More importantly, they are likely to damage British national interests and our global standing.”

Theology
Female mentors sought

A mentoring scheme has been launched to increase the number of female theology academics. The project, which is run by the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion study group, is called Championing Women in the Academy. It is open to women in the UK and Ireland who are studying theology or religious studies, from first-year PhD students to readers. Led by Sonya Sharma, lecturer in sociology at Kingston University, the scheme will match women in junior academic roles with mentors who are in more senior positions. Mentees will receive support and advice on job applications, preparing publications, funding bids and returning to work after a career break. It will particularly aim to stop the high dropout rate of female postgraduates. To sign up to be either a mentor or a mentee, email sonya.sharma@kingston.ac.uk

Swansea School of Management
Big response to student petition

A petition expressing concerns about the “negative profile” being acquired by the University of Swansea’s School of Management garnered more than 800 signatures within days of being launched. The online petition, entitled “Safeguard Our Degrees at Swansea University!”, expresses students’ concerns about recent stories in the press about the school. As Times Higher Education has reported, the school’s controversial dean, Nigel Piercy, and his son, Niall, pro dean for research and engagement, have clashed with staff, a pro vice-chancellor and an external examiner since they were appointed in 2013. The petition expresses students’ concern that the press stories have damaged Swansea’s reputation and that this will “negatively impact on the value of our degrees”.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

News that the amount of money paid by UK universities to subscribe to some large publishers’ journals has risen by almost 50 per cent since 2010 had our Twitter followers’ tongues wagging. @protohedgehog described the statistics in the article as “near-criminal”, while @poposkidimitar said that it was “shocking news…We need open access more than ever”. The story showed a “need for transparent pricing in publishing”, tweeted @wendysotonlib, while @rushtonIU queried how long prices could continue to rise. “If something can’t go on for ever, it won’t,” he said.

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