News in brief – 9 July 2015

UK higher education round-up and highlights from the Twittersphere

July 9, 2015
Heavy metal chain links

Industry-research links

‘Cut schemes to aid collaboration’

The government must simplify the “excessively complex” schemes designed to assist collaboration between industry and universities. This is according to a report commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and produced by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Dame Ann Dowling, president of the RAE, said that the complexity of existing public support mechanisms causes “frustration and confusion” among academics, meaning that the UK is not “reaping the full potential” of connecting innovative businesses with the “excellence in the research base” at UK universities. The report suggests reducing the number of schemes and simplifying the way in which they are accessed. Elsewhere, university technology transfer offices should also prioritise knowledge exchange over short-term income generation, and further work is required to improve approaches to contracts and intellectual property agreements, the report claims. “We need a change of culture in our universities to support and encourage collaboration with industry,” Dame Ann said.

European Students’ Union

New chairperson elected

A Spanish medical student has become the new chair of the European Students’ Union. Fernando Galán Palomares, who studied medicine at the University of Cantabria in Santander, this month took over as head of the union, which represents 15 million students in 38 European nations. Mr Palomares, who served as ESU’s vice-chair since 2013, has also been an Erasmus student at the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy, and has participated in several global exchanges. As a student representative, he has focused on student-centred learning, online education, rankings, recognition and quality assurance.

Student outcomes

London Met raises performance

London Metropolitan University has enjoyed the biggest increase in the proportion of its graduates who are in work or further study six months after leaving. Data published on 2 July by the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveal that 88.8 per cent of London Met’s 2013‑14 full-time first-degree graduates told the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey that they were in a job or continuing their studies. This was a 7.4 percentage point increase on 2012‑13, when the institution’s result of 81.4 per cent was the worst in the UK, but it remains below the nationwide average of 93.2 per cent. Other universities making strides included Aberystwyth, up 5.9 percentage points to 91.4 per cent, and Sunderland, up 5.4 points to 92.5 per cent. Many of the strongest performers were small, specialist institutions, with 100 per cent of the Royal College of Music’s graduates in work or further study.

Office for Fair Access

Ebdon gets Johnson’s vote

Les Ebdon has described his reappointment as director of fair access to higher education as a “clear vote of confidence” from the government. The extension of Professor Ebdon’s term was announced by Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, in a speech on 1 July. The original appointment of Professor Ebdon to lead the Office for Fair Access, which he joined in September 2012, provoked controversy over his proposed ultimatum to highly selective universities with “patchy” records on access and was opposed by Conservative MPs on the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. Professor Ebdon, the former vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, said that “significant progress” had been made on widening participation, but that there was “still a long way to go”.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Last week’s story revealing that the universities of Oxford and Cambridge are set to lose public funding that helps support their tutorial systems ignited debate. @CraigRichard100 said that the move would be “Great4 Art, Music, Drama” colleges given that they are the other major recipients of the funding stream for specialist institutions. But @wiilassie was sceptical on this point: “I somehow doubt cash freed by this will be ‘diverted to small specialist’ HEIs; bet fund will be cut back instead.” Others questioned what the effect would be on Oxbridge. Cambridge academic @KEHplantsci admitted that it “makes my life harder”, but said that she “always thought [it] was wrong we got more!”

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