News in brief - 9 October 2014

October 9, 2014

Postgraduate study
UK survey verdict: mostly happy

Four out of five postgraduate students are happy with their course, a new survey indicates. Some 83 per cent of the 67,580 people polled for the Higher Education Academy’s Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2014 said that they were satisfied overall with their programme. That is three percentage points lower than the equivalent score for undergraduates as measured by this year’s National Student Survey. The calibre of teaching was highly rated, with 88 per cent of respondents agreeing that staff were good at explaining things and 90 per cent saying they were enthusiastic. About 100 UK higher education institutions took part in the survey, and the sample size made it the country’s biggest-ever survey of postgraduate students. In other key findings, respondents cited family or friends, personal income and savings as the main sources of funding for postgraduate study. Meanwhile, 58 per cent said that career progression was the reason they chose their current course, and 38 per cent pointed to a wish to progress to a higher level qualification. Mark Jones, director of services at the HEA, said: “We must work together to continue to improve the postgraduate experience for students, and to ensure that provision is suited to all groups of the population.”

Universities Scotland
Scots club together to save £7m

Closer collaboration between Scottish universities has helped institutions to save £7 million over five years, a report says. Coordinating procurement and ICT expenditure contributed to institutions’ overall “efficiencies” total for 2008-09 to 2012-13, according to Universities Scotland’s Working Smarter 2014 report. Reductions in estate expenditure and energy consumption also played a part. The report says the initiative aims to make further savings over the next three years, after universities met most of the previous targets 12 months early. “Efficiency is not a substitute for investment,” said Sir Ian Diamond, convener of Universities Scotland’s efficiencies task force and the principal of the University of Aberdeen. “But it can and should make that investment go as far as possible and help to maintain the effectiveness of Scottish higher education.”

English language proficiency
Pearson to test ‘global standard’

A new online English language test has been launched by education company Pearson. The GSET assessment measures students’ progress against Pearson’s Global Scale of English, which the company describes as the “first truly global standard” for the measurement of linguistic proficiency. Rather than ranking attainment using broad bands, it specifies what a learner can do at each point on a scale – for example, someone with a speaking ability of 29 can identify and order common food from a menu while someone with a writing score of 53 can pen a letter of complaint. The first company to offer the GSET is busuu, a “freemium” language learning network that connects learners with native speakers using video chat and enables peer-to-peer text corrections.

Best University Workplace 2015 survey
Good, bad, complicated: tell all

What’s the best thing about working at your university? In which areas do you need more support? These are among the questions we are asking in the second annual Times Higher Education Best University Workplace survey, which is now open. Last year more than 4,500 university employees in academic, professional and support roles responded to our independent university audit. Click here to have your say.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Twitter was awash with discussion about the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-15 in the hours after we published the results last week. “Global higher ed is changing,” noted @sumingkhoo, reacting to a four-year trend that has seen Asian universities’ presence in the table increase. “Asia is investing in HE, EU+US are not.” “Only 20 Australian unis in global Top 400 – a real concern when this is our 4th biggest export,” said @ARITAceo, while @cmall4education pointed out that “despite UK losing ground, one third of top 10 are UK”.

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