News in brief

April 24, 2008

Transatlantic co-operation

PM keen to boost exchanges

UK and US universities should co-operate "at a far higher level" than they do, the Prime Minister wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal. "I want many more British and American students to have the chance to study across the Atlantic," Gordon Brown said, announcing a committee to look at co-operation between US and UK institutions. Universities UK president Rick Trainor, principal of King's College London, and the head of New York University will convene the group.

Tuition fees

Unpopular courses may cut fees

Less popular universities and courses may have to cut fees "significantly" when variable fees are introduced to increase recruitment, a paper on Staffordshire University's website says. It also says that courses at the most popular universities could raise charges. It cites a US study that found that universities had to reduce students' total costs by 10 per cent to get a 15 per cent rise in numbers. Geoff Pugh, the paper's co-author and a professor of applied economics at Staffordshire, said: "Small changes will not have a big effect on recruitment because any fee reduction is only a small reduction in the total cost of being a student."

Confederation of British Industry

Communications skills are key

Almost two thirds of British employers believe that experience such as work placement is "vitally important". A Confederation of British Industry survey based on data from 735 companies found that bosses rate communication skills and a positive attitude higher than a graduate's degree subject or result. Another study, from the Council for Industry and Higher Education, found that nine out of ten employers think communication skills are important, yet many think graduates cannot express themselves effectively. Nearly two thirds thought a good degree was important but only 38 per cent placed importance on the university's reputation, the survey said.

Ucas admissions

Applications are up 7.8%

The number of students applying to universities and colleges is up 7.8 per cent, according to figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Applications for full-time undergraduate courses starting this autumn have risen from 446,765 at the same point last year to 481,784. Law remains the most popular subject choice, followed by psychology, pre-clinical medicine and design studies.

Regional development

South East alliance formed

A three-way "strategic alliance" has been formed to boost higher education in the South East of England. The alliance, of the South East England Development Agency, Higher Education South East and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, aims to draw 25 universities into closer collaboration with each other and with funding agencies.

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