News in brief

June 29, 2001

Northern College gets go-ahead to merge

Wendy Alexander, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, has approved the long-awaited merger of Northern College with Aberdeen and Dundee universities.

Northern College, which has campuses in Aberdeen and Dundee, is Scotland's last free-standing college of education. Merger plans were assessed by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council under a set of criteria that included costs, benefits and enhanced educational opportunities.

The teacher education work in Aberdeen will move to Aberdeen University. The faculty of education at Dundee University will cover teacher education, social work and community education.

Equal opportunities appoints commissioner

Patricia Hewitt, trade and industry secretary and minister for women, has appointed Edinburgh University's Rowena Arshad, as the Equal Opportunities Commission's commissioner with special knowledge of Scotland.

Ms Arshad, director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland, in Edinburgh's faculty of education, is a lecturer in equity and rights. She is a member of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and served on the Cubie inquiry into student finance.

Ms Arshad will take up the post for three years. She succeeds Joan Stringer, principal of Queen Margaret University College.

Students could get lectured in lock-up

Students at Cardiff University will find themselves being lectured to at the local nick if discussions between the police authority and the university about the future of Cardiff Central Police Station are successful.

Cardiff is interested in buying the late 1960s station in the Cathays Park area, where most of the university buildings are.

Millennium institute set for university status

It will take at least five years for the pioneering UHI Millennium Institute to become a University of the Highlands and Islands, its new director predicted.

Robert Cormack, pro vice-chancellor of Queen's University, Belfast, takes up the £87,000-a-year post on October 1. His priority will be curriculum development and enhanced quality.

Professor Cormack, co-director of the Centre for Research on Higher Education, run by Queen's and the University of Ulster, has been prominent in researching the phenomenon of Northern Ireland's "reluctant leavers" - students who are obliged to travel to the mainland to study because of the lack of local places.

The UHI Millennium Institute is seen as a means of combating the depopulation of the Highlands and Islands by allowing students to study locally through a high-tech network of colleges and research institutes. It has won higher education designation and will be funded through the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council.

Renewed calls for a centre for rail research

The series of rail disasters in the past few years has highlighted a shortage of academic research in the sector, the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council said.

Peter Bates of the EPSRC said: "Even when we have issued calls for proposals that specified rail as a priority area, many of those proposals that have been submitted have been judged to be of poor quality by peer review, mainly because they are considered too short term."

He is coordinating a call for proposals to create an interdisciplinary Centre for Rail Systems Research.

The virtual centre, made up of departments from several universities, will be funded by the research council, with £1.5 million annually for the first four years.

Railtrack and contractor WS Atkins have also expressed interest.

OU bids to develop e-university courses

The Open University has put in bids with Oxford and Cambridge universities to the e-university, which aims to offer online courses developed by British universities.

The bid with Cambridge comes under the remit of Open Cambridge, a partnership between the Institute of Educational Technology at the OU and the University of Cambridge Programme for Industry.

The proposed course, called "Learning in the connected economy", would be offered at masters level to those in universities in the developing world and in business. The course would explore the rise of the information economy as driven by the internet.

Oxford has discussed with the OU the possibility of setting up a partnership called Open Oxford.

The bid does not use that title, but proposes to run online diplomas and advanced diplomas in computing.

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