News in brief

January 31, 2013

Academic promotion
Marriage has variable benefits

A report from the American Historical Association provides fresh evidence of the impact of marital status and gender on academic careers. Deputy director Robert Townsend surveyed more than 2,000 history professors and released his analysis of the data earlier this month in Perspectives on History. The figures, he writes in “Gender and success in academia”, provide “ample evidence that women and men often take separate journeys to the upper ranks of academia”. While men who were married or had once been married won promotion from associate to full professor slightly faster than those who remained single (5.9 versus 6.4 years), the pattern for women was reversed. Those who had never been married were promoted in an average of 6.7 years. For those now or once married, it took an extra 1.1 years to make the same step.

International students
Web system eases applications

An online admissions system for international students has been activated with the aim of simplifying the process of applying to universities in the UK. Centurus ONE allows applicants to track the progress of their application, rather than applying through university websites or via email. Currently, just over one in 10 international students apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the company said. Dawood Fard, a graduate of the University of Central Lancashire, came up with the idea while working in Delhi after witnessing the difficulties that applicants face. “The current process is slow, inflexible and expensive,” he said. “We have developed a revolutionary system that is easy to use, transparent and not at all intimidating.”

Open-access publishing
Sage cuts costs for authors

The publisher Sage has cut the price of publishing in its flagship open- access journal to just $99 (£63) after concern about whether researchers in the humanities and social sciences will be able to afford to comply with the UK’s new open-access mandates. Recognition that non-science academics often lacked specific research funding led the publisher to establish Sage Open, in May 2011, with an article fee of $695, compared with science open-access journal PLoS ONE’s $1,350, and $5,000 for Elsevier’s Cell titles. However, a recent survey showed that more than 70 per cent of Sage Open’s accepted authors had paid the article fee themselves, and only 15 per cent of the articles published in 2012 in all Sage’s humanities and social sciences journals derived from research projects with allocated funding. Bob Howard, vice-president of US journals at Sage, indicated that the decision was partly influenced by the Finch report and Research Councils UK’s new open-access policy, which, from April, will require all its funded research to be published in an open- access format.

Free consultation
Sign up for online learning advice

Universities have been invited to sign up for free advice sessions on how to improve the use of online learning. Up to eight hours of consultancy advice are available to institutions from the Changing the Learning Landscape programme, which is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Sixteen universities have signed up for the sessions; the deadline for registration is 14 February. Other activities in the scheme include training for pro vice-chancellors or directors of learning on embedding online learning within their university.

Online Now

A story about a backlash from academics at the University of Surrey’s law department over a proposal to “normalise” exam marks prompted comments. “Post 92” expressed a hope that it would spark wider interest: “I am aware of at least one other UK law school that has adopted the practice of normalising marks and does not accept a 1 in 5 failure rate in its core modules.” But another comment said moderation was required, as “some modules are intrinsically ‘harder’ than others and some students will opt for ‘easy’ modules if they have options”.


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