News in brief

May 15, 2008

Student satisfaction

UK accommodation 'poor value'

Almost half of UK university students are unhappy with the cost of their lodgings, a survey has found. Value for money was "important" to 93 per cent of respondents but only 52 per cent were happy with their accommodation. Overseas students were especially critical of rents in housing or halls of residence, according to the report from College and University Business Officers. Survey respondents felt that some institutions overlooked the importance of catering, accommodation, social and sports facilities, despite their substantial impact on students' enjoyment of university. "Universities that do this risk losing control over their reputations and the student experience," the report says.

Universities Superannuation Scheme

Call for disinvestment over Darfur

An anti-genocide group is to step up a campaign to press the main UK academic pension fund to disinvest from two companies in a bid to stop the conflict in Darfur. The Aegis Trust will ask academics to inundate the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) with letters urging it to sell its shares in PetroChina and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) because they or their sister companies do business in Sudan. David Russell, co-head of responsible investment at USS, said it no longer had shares in ONGC. "Our legal advice is that ... trust-based pension funds cannot divest shares on moral or ethical grounds alone, and that such issues can be taken into account in investment decisions only where they have a material financial impact on the company. Our engagement with companies operating in Sudan is ongoing."

Sustainable development

Engineers need green ideas

Universities must "urgently" incorporate more teaching on sustainable development into their engineering degrees, it was claimed this week. The call came from environmental charity Forum for the Future after it surveyed 500 engineers who graduated in the past two to ten years and found that 40 per cent believed that their lecturers' knowledge of sustainable development was inadequate. Seventy-two per cent of respondents said they would have liked to learn more about sustainability during their studies and 60 per cent thought the subject should be fully integrated into the course. Richard Dodds, chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering's Sustainable Development Education Working Group, said: "Universities are starting to incorporate development into engineering courses."

Biosciences

Merger mooted for subject bodies

The Institute of Biology and the Biosciences Federation may merge. Following a members' meeting, the BSF said: "We propose to take the strongest parts from both organisations and create a new society that will properly support biology in the UK and be effective in proposing solutions to the challenging questions of our time." Both organisations will discuss the issue on May.

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