News in brief

February 7, 2013

Station departures

A redundancy consultation is under way at the University Marine Biological Station Millport after the Higher Education Funding Council for England decided to end its annual funding from 2015-16. Following a consultation, the board of trustees at the University of London, which owns the station, will meet to make a final decision on its future on 20 March. The station, which opened on the Scottish Isle of Cumbrae in the 1880s, provides fieldwork courses to students studying marine biology and ecology, and is managed in partnership with the University of St Andrews. The University of London said it welcomed suggestions from interested parties “to help secure a long-term viable future” for the station.

Massively popular

More than 300,000 people have signed up to the University of Edinburgh’s free massive open online courses since they were announced in July last year, it has been revealed. Edinburgh is offering six courses on the Coursera platform, which primarily hosts Moocs from US universities. For every student physically studying in Edinburgh, there are now 10 online learners, a statement from the university says. Sir Timothy O’Shea, Edinburgh’s vice-chancellor, said he was “delighted” that the courses had “caught the imagination of the public…As someone who has researched in this area for more than 40 years, I am thrilled to bits that we have been able to attract so many learners to experience what Edinburgh has to offer.” The majority of the courses run for five weeks and include Astrobiology and the Search for Extra-terrestrial Life, Artificial Intelligence Planning and Equine Nutrition.

Spheres of influence

The British Council and the UK Higher Education International Unit have agreed to work more closely together to promote UK universities abroad. They have clarified their respective responsibilities in a memorandum of understanding, and this year will collaborate to advance the sector in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Qatar and Burma. The unit will take charge of developing skills in the UK and will host incoming delegations, while the council will lead on overseas expertise, international groups and policy dialogue. Jo Beall, the British Council’s director of education and society, said: “We really welcome this…because it will enable us to promote and support the UK sector more effectively.”

British Medical Association
Show students what fees are for

The British Medical Association is calling for medical schools to provide more information on how they spend the income they get from students’ tuition fees. In response to a consultation by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the BMA said that students paying annual fees of £9,000 for at least four years will expect to receive a more formal and businesslike service from universities. James Warwick, the joint deputy chair of the BMA medical students committee, said that telling students how fees are spent would allow much greater transparency and would give them the knowledge to challenge the decisions universities make on where their money goes. “No university is going to want to give a bad impression to prospective students, and hopefully this would encourage all institutions to really think about what money is spent on,” he added.

Online now

Our analysis of the effect of a potential UK exit from the European Union elicited various comments. “KatherineA” sarcastically wrote that she was sure EU students would flock to the UK after a “no” vote in a referendum because it would “send such a warm message of welcome to other Europeans”. “Bernd Kleinheyer” suggested that university managers were naive if they thought the UK would continue to attract students from abroad: “UK universities have something to offer but…not a lot more than equally priced competitors.”

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