News in brief

June 22, 2001

Brunel appoints new vice-chancellor

Brunel University's new vice-chancellor will be Steven Schwartz (pictured), head of Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. Professor Schwartz was born in the United States and graduated in psychology from City University, New York. In 1978 he took a post at the University of Western Australia, before moving to the University of Queensland as head of the department of psychology. He succeeds Michael Sterling, who becomes vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham in September.

Minister 'sympathetic' to national pay talks

Wendy Alexander, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, has said she is "very sympathetic" to further education colleges that want to collaborate over pay and conditions. At last week's Association of Scottish Colleges' annual conference, Ms Alexander was warned that staff expectations had been raised following the recent McCrone settlement, which gave school teachers a 23 per cent pay rise over three years. Ms Alexander said she did not believe a top-down approach from the Scottish Executive was appropriate but she would consider bottom-up collaboration.

Plan for cross-border university put on hold

Northern Ireland's higher and further education minister, Sean Farren, has ruled out a proposed cross-border university intended to reflect the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. Dr Farren reached his verdict despite indications that European funding could be available for the project. It came in a written answer to Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff on the viability of establishing a university across two or more sites on either side of the border.

Part-time trainees win teaching bursary

Part-time graduate trainee teachers who were excluded from receiving training bursaries are to get the money after all. The bursaries will be backdated to when the trainees started their courses and paid in a lump sum this month. They will get the same amount as those on full-time courses - £6,000 - but spread over two years. Diana Bentley, director of education at Sheffield Hallam University, said: "This is a significant move by the government, but what a pity they didn't do it earlier."

The Teacher Training Agency is to make numeracy and literacy tests for trainee teachers more flexible. New rules mean candidates will be able to sit the tests an unlimited number of times.

Scientists establish unit to advise EU

European scientists gathered this week to create an independent body to provide scientific advice to European Union policy-makers. Heads of the national academies of science, the Academia Europaea and the All European Academies agreed to set up the European Academies' Science Advisory Council. The council will identify issues and assemble teams of experts to provide advice. It will be funded by member academies, and Britain's Royal Society will administer the council.

Conservation diploma puts ideas into action

The University of Kent at Canterbury is offering a diploma in conservation education at a cost of £47,000 a head. The course will bring students from remote, tropical areas to Canterbury for ten weeks and then support them through a year of spreading the word back home.

The cost, covering tuition, travel and funds to turn lessons into action, will be borne by local governments and outside bodies. The course is a collaborative effort between the university's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology and a wildlife charity, the RARE Center for Tropical Conservation.

Campaign spotlights working student plight

Many students are being exploited at work and need the protection of a trade union, according to the National Union of Students. The NUS is to launch a campaign to raise awareness of working students' rights.

Together with the Trades Union Congress, the NUS is conducting an online survey of the pressures and conditions students suffer at work.

Owain James, president of the NUS, said: "Finding work is no longer an option but a necessity for students to be able to live. Students in this position face exploitation from employers."

Institutes join forces in engineering school

From next September, the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Manchester will join forces in civil and construction engineering. The Manchester Centre for Civil and Construction Engineering has been awarded a £1.9 million grant under the Higher Education Funding Council for England's restructuring and collaboration fund. The money, supplemented by a contribution from Umist, will be spent on restructuring existing facilities at Umist and building a lecture theatre.


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