News in brief

November 2, 2001

Widening-participation staff recruited
Universities across the United Kingdom are recruiting staff for the widening participation drive mandated by the government. Institutions including Bath, Manchester, Greenwich and Loughborough universities and University College London are advertising posts in the field.

Julia Dearden, widening participation coordinator at the University of Manchester, estimated that Manchester would have ten to 15 full-time widening participation staff and several part-time posts. Duties vary between outreach work in schools, mature student recruitment and ensuring that students' needs are met.

The trend is towards widening participation staff being appointed at faculty level and centrally, Ms Dearden said. UCL is setting up a widening participation unit within the central administration, with a staff of three.

Professor to advise Lloyd's on tower claims   
An engineering professor from the University of Newcastle is to advise Lloyd's insurance market on billions of dollars worth of claims issued in the wake of the attack on New York's World Trade Center.
John Knapton said the insurers needed to understand how the twin towers collapsed and whether they were designed and built correctly. He said the study was likely to take many years.

He said: "They survived both the impact of the aircraft and the massive structural damage caused when the fuel exploded. The foresight of the designers in delaying the collapse probably saved the lives of 25,000 people."

Claims could reach $6 billion, (£4 billion) and one of the most controversial issues would be the adequacy of the means of escape, Professor Knapton said. He will work with the investigation committee appointed by the US federal government.

Proposed funding increase for Wales   
Higher and further education have been allocated additional funding under draft budget plans released by the Welsh Assembly this week. The proposed education and training budget aims for an overall 4 per cent increase in each of the next two years.

The proposals, announced by assembly education and lifelong learning minister Jane Davidson on Wednesday, should lead to a funding boost for Welsh universities and colleges. The education and lifelong learning committee, which is putting the finishing touches to a review of Welsh higher education, urged the assembly to put Welsh universities on the same funding levels as English institutions.

Budget estimates from the assembly indicate that higher education will probably gain £5 million in 2002-03 and £6 million the following year, due to underspending this year. Ms Davidson said more money should be released on conclusion of the higher education review.

The assembly proposes to inject about £40 million into student support over the next three years. It will go into the budget for student access and hardship funds to create "learner maintenance bursaries" - in effect reinstating maintenance grants for poor students.

The education and lifelong learning committee has also called for money to redress a gap in salaries and terms and conditions between further education lecturers and school teachers.

The committee should give its formal response to the proposals next week. The assembly will move its final budget on November 22.

Fast-track teacher training piloted   
A series of pilot projects aimed at persuading students to con-sider a teaching career by reducing their training time has been announced.

As part of its drive to get 10,000 more teachers into classrooms, the Teacher Training Agency asked six schools of education to investigate different ways of increasing the supply.

The idea underpinning the pilots - at Warwick University, London Institute of Education, Canterbury College, Bristol/West of England University and St Martin's College - is the award of credits towards qualified-teacher status built up while students study for other undergraduate qualifications.

Sunderland University is trying a fast-track programme for newly qualified teachers. It will offer students doing any undergraduate degree education modules. Each student will receive up to £440.

UNL denies former merger attempts
The University of North London has denied reports that London Guildhall University was its third choice of merger partner. A spokeswoman denied that UNL made at least two attempts to merge with other London universities before it approached LGU.

Middlesex and City universities deny they were approached, although sources said low-level talks had taken place.

LGU's board of governors has voiced reservations about the merger, although UNL's board was largely in favour.

A final report from the joint committee of governors says the new university will be led by two senior officers reporting to the chair of the board of governors. "These will be a vice-chancellor and chief academic officer (Roderick Floud) and a chief executive and accounting officer (UNL chief Brian Roper), who will be the 'designated officer' as defined in the Hefce financial memorandum.

"This will enable the former to build the external profile of the new university coterminously with his presidency of Universities UK and thereafter and the latter to focus upon merger and internal management."

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