News in brief

April 17, 2008

Higher education finance

Sector income tops £20bn

The total annual income of higher education institutions in the UK has risen to over £20 billion for the first time. Income rose by 9 per cent last year, from over £19.5 billion to £21.2 billion, exceeding the 8.8 per cent increase in expenditure, up from almost £19.4 billion to £21 billion. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency records the greatest percentage increase in income from tuition fees, education grants and contracts, which rose 16 per cent year on year. Funding council grants rose 6.4 per cent, accounting for 37.5 per cent of income across the sector.

Funding council strategic plan

Hefce difficulties highlighted

Key elements of the Higher Education Funding Council for England's strategic plan have hit difficulties. Five areas are identified as a cause for concern in Hefce board papers published online last week. The council operates a traffic-light system for monitoring 31 "high-level activities" contributing to its strategic aims, labelling each green, amber or red to indicate progress. In the last quarter, 26 were given a green rating, signifying progress as planned, but five were rated as amber, indicating "difficulties" requiring remedial action. The first area with an amber rating is support for universities' collaborative activities in widening participation. The board paper says: "This is in recognition of the need for better quality evidence of the effectiveness of widening participation activity at the local level." Other "amber" areas related to concerns that cost-saving through shared services could be hampered by VAT rules; difficulties encouraging staff to use "sustainable" transportation; problems deploying "international intelligence into core policy development activities"; and disquiet over government plans to cut Hefce's running costs.

Intellectual property

Researchers request data access

A study of intellectual property issues in the digital age has found that 93 per cent of researchers want the same access to electronic material as printed material. The British Library said it conducted the survey because of fears that the balance in copyright is being undermined. Researchers said anyone involved in non-commercial research should be allowed to copy parts of electronically published works such as online articles, news broadcasts and sound recordings.


We said ( March) that the University of Edinburgh is ranked 23rd in Times Higher Education's world rankings and that the next highest rated Scottish university is the University of Glasgow, at 83. We omitted to note that the University of St Andrews is 76th. Apologies to St Andrews.

We stated (Appointments 10 April 2008) that Bob Cywinski is head of condensed matter and pro dean for research in mathematics and physical sciences at the University of Leeds. In fact he is a former holder of both of these roles, and is currently professor of condensed matter physics at Leeds.

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