News in brief

November 1, 2002

Unions could unseat Manchester merger
Trade unions at Manchester University and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology warned this week that failure to involve them in final merger discussions would threaten the success of the venture. The two universities are making transitional arrangements to bring about the merger by 2004 following last week's decision to proceed.

"The talking really starts now because the vague vision we have heard so much about has to be made into reality and we must do away with ambiguity," said Dave Jones, chair of a joint union working group.

Alan Williams, president of the Manchester Association of University Teachers, said that there were concerns that the merger was being driven by finance rather than by academic priorities.

He said: "In ten years we want to see something that looks like a university, not a pharmaceutical company driven by commercial pressures. Lecturers need to be closely involved in the new academic structure."

UHI wins support for university bid
The Scottish Executive is backing the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute's bid for full university status by setting up an advisory group to help it win its own degree-awarding powers.
Iain Gray, Scotland's enterprise, transport and lifelong learning minister, told this week's Convention of the Highlands and Islands that UHI had the potential to become a world-recognised university.

Mr Gray wants the group, led by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, to report directly to him in six months. He said he was confident it would help the institute realise the vision of a university in the Highlands and Islands.

He said: "Making the transition to a degree-awarding institution will be a real challenge, requiring hard work and inspirational leadership. It will be about ensuring quality. Only the institute itself can, in the end, deliver on those things."

The UHI Millennium Institute was designated a higher education institution 18 months ago, and has set itself a target of becoming a university by 2007. It comprises a federation of 15 further education colleges and research institutes.

It's life - but not as we know it
The sci-fi world of Star Trek has come closer with the unveiling of the world's largest interactive 3D computer projections, developed by the Glasgow School of Art.

An image of Ford's new StreetKa was projected onto the 26m screen at the London Imax Cinema yesterday to mark the launch of Avnet (Advanced Visualisation Network), a network for the car industry supported by Ford and led by GSA's Digital Design Studio.

The technology, reminiscent of Star Trek 's holodecks, which create an interactive virtual reality, is set to revolutionise how designers create cars and how customers buy them.

Paul Anderson, director of the Digital Design Studio, said: "The research has enormous potential to impact in other areas of our life.

"These might include 3D visualisation for air-traffic control, interaction with seismic data in oil and gas, and even more realistic games applications or interactive public entertainment."

Professor Anderson said it might also be used to allow surgeons to interact with a 3D "photocopy" of a patient generated by computer graphics technology.

Avnet's funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council with support from technology firms such as SGI (Silicon Graphics Inc).

Joint prospectus offers one-stop shop
The Open University has joined forces with Milton Keynes College in a unique venture that could lead to a common regional curriculum.

The two institutions have published a joint prospectus detailing what courses are available through them to people in Milton Keynes and the surrounding area.

The 28-page prospectus also lists higher education courses run by the college and validated by other universities, including De Montfort, Oxford Brookes and Leicester.

The move has been described as the creation of a one-stop-shop for professional and higher education opportunities.

Although most courses in the prospectus are at the access level, there are plans to include a full range of courses in future.

OU heads believe the venture could pave the way for the introduction of a regional higher education curriculum provided by a range of further and higher education institutions.

Allan Cochrane, OU pro-vice-chancellor, said: "One of the things we hope to do in the longer term is to have discussions with the college and other colleges to see whether there are higher education programmes that we can offer jointly." 

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