News in brief

December 21, 2001

Funding boost needed for computer science
Research funding for computer science in the United Kingdom should be doubled to match that of the United States and other international competitors, according to a report.

The report, based on a review of academic computing research carried out by an international panel of computer scientists for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, found that "in a number of areas, the UK is a worldwide leader, demonstrating an outstanding record of innovation and first-rate science".

But it warns that more funding and other changes are urgent if this lead is to be maintained.

John O'Reilly, chief executive of the EPSRC, said the council had put in a bid to the comprehensive spending review for increased funding for computer science.

Immigration opens door for foreign academics
Top overseas scientists and skilled graduates will find it easier to migrate to the United Kingdom under a new scheme announced by government. The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme aims to secure the UK a larger share of the highly qualified, skilled and well-paid people in the global jobs market.
Applications to work will be judged on a points basis, in five scoring areas, with a minimum of 75 necessary to qualify for the system. The five areas include a category to help recruit qualified doctors from overseas.

For example, PhDs will be awarded 30 points, a masters degree 25, with 15 for an ordinary degree. Five years' work experience in a graduate-level job attracts 15 points, although holders of PhDs need only accrue three years' experience to gain the 15 points.

Lord Rooker, minister for citizenship and immigration, said: "It will allow eminent scientists to base their research projects here, should encourage the movement of business and financial experts to the City of London and give those at the top of their chosen profession the choice of making the UK their home."

The programme will run initially for a year.


Welsh centre responds to low patent filing rate
Intellectual property rights are under threat in Wales unless universities and industry work harder to raise awareness of the value of research and development, researchers have warned.
Evidence suggests that the number of patents filed in Wales is abnormally low, despite increased research activity in universities and the fact that the United Kingdom's patent office is based in Newport, Gwent.

An Intellectual Property Wales Research Centre at the University of Wales, Swansea, in collaboration with Swansea Institute of Higher Education and business and legal advisers, has launched an initiative to discover why and to monitor IP activity in Wales more closely.

The centre, which is backed by a £1.1 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund and based at the university's law department, will act as an "observatory" on IP for the next three years. It will aim to push IP higher up the agenda for small and medium-sized companies.

'Misguided' government models to be challenged 
Sussex University has opened a centre for educational innovation with a promise to stir up debate and challenge the thinking underpinning government policy.
Vice-chancellor Alastair Smith said the centre had grown out of research on innovation in schools and reflected the university's awareness of the need for closer relations with the community.

The centre aims to draw together people working in schools, further, adult and higher education and in the workplace in the Brighton and Hastings area. The university has put up seedcorn funding but the centre hopes to attract cash from other organisations.

Michael Fielding, reader in education, said the centre would link several projects and kick off a series of debates, lectures, seminars and workshops. "The government is working on a high-performance model for education that is counterproductive. There is an unremitting emphasis on outcomes. People are working really hard, there is a lot of goodwill, but the models are wrong."

IT apprenticeships aim to entice graduates
Students and graduates are being encouraged to sign up for the first nationally recognised graduate apprenticeship programme, designed to equip them with the information technology skills needed in the world of work.

Universities and higher education colleges have joined forces with employers and the e-skills National Training Organisation to provide a programme that assesses the workplace performance of students and graduates in areas such as software development, IT support and solutions.

According to Christine Sanderson, e-skills NTO project director, the apprenticeship promotes high standards and is flexible enough to be able to suit the needs of students and employers. It is designed to allow large companies to align in-house graduate development programmes to it or to allow smaller companies to work with their local higher education institution to develop a graduate-apprenticeship-based training system.

John Samuel, academic manager at Leeds Metropolitan University's Centre for Access and Lifelong Learning, which is already recruiting students onto the programme, said: "Employers can now be confident that our graduates have the skills and competencies required by industry, and that they can hit the ground running as they embark upon their chosen career."

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