News in brief - 7 November 2013

November 7, 2013

Science funding
Byrne fired up over ring-fencing

The capital element of the science budget should be ring-fenced to avoid the risks of “announcement-based politics”, according to Labour’s new shadow minister for the sector. In his first public appearance since taking on the brief, Liam Byrne said he was excited by his new position as shadow universities, science and skills minister, and pledged to be “shop steward-in-chief” for the science lobby. Speaking at the Campaign for Science and Engineering’s science policy debate at the Royal Society on 30 October, part of the London Science Festival, Mr Byrne said he would use “every ounce” of his experience to argue for a long-term, ring-fenced resource budget allocation to the research councils, “with a strategy to go with it”.

Undergraduate degree classifications
Large-scale GPA pilot is a UK first

Twenty higher education institutions will take part in a pilot of US-style degree classifications. The universities of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton are among those that will test a grade point average system in a project run by the Higher Education Academy. The “national GPA system” will provide an average from grades achieved throughout a student’s course, as distinct from the traditional honours degree classifications, such as a first, a 2:1 or a 2:2. GPA data could be presented as a complement to traditional classifications if the one-year pilot is a success. Other participating institutions include the universities of Bangor, Leicester, Kingston, Northumbria, Oxford Brookes, Winchester and York St John.

UK bests US in fundraising growth

Philanthropic support for universities grew at a faster rate in the UK than it did in the US over the past five years, according to ratings agency Moody’s. In 2011-12, UK institutions “raised a record level of funds worth $1.2 billion (£774 million), up 17.4 per cent (14 per cent without adjusting for currency conversion) from the prior year”, the agency said in a report, “UK Universities Increasingly Tapping Fundraising”. Moody’s said UK growth was driven by fundraising campaigns by wealthy universities, the introduction of the government’s matched funding scheme, and a favourable tax structure “under which donors in the UK can claim tax relief at par with the amount of their donations”.

Media studies
TV interference, right royal variety

Prince Charles last week presided over the Royal Television Society’s announcement of 20 bursaries for students on television courses. The Prince, the society’s patron, made the announcement at the first annual Craft Skills Masterclass on 30 October, where students from 12 higher education institutions were coached by leading industry professionals in sound, editing and camerawork. The £3,000 bursaries will support those from less affluent backgrounds on courses in television production and related digital media. The masterclass, said the Prince, came about after he was alerted to a skills shortage in TV, and was “really all my fault – yet another example of what The Guardian obligingly refers to as interfering or meddling”.


An article last week stated that the London School of Business and Finance offers degree courses validated by Birmingham City University. A partnership was listed on LSBF’s website, however Birmingham City University has informed us that no such link exists.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Our feature on how English as a discipline is “beset by some of the roughest storms in its history” and might not be too big to fail provoked much discussion on Twitter.

@EoinFlannery described the article as a “wake-up call”, while @victorianclare and @LitBitPod described it as “thought-provoking” and “sobering”, respectively.

“This really addresses the crumbling citadel of studying/teaching ‘English’. Brilliant piece. Highly recommended,” added @flawedheroine. “Brilliant piece, which all Eng teachers & lecturers really need to read,” tweeted @RMarggrafTurley. “The ship is holed!”

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