News in brief

June 26, 2008

Energy Technologies Institute

EPSRC loses out on funding

MPs have criticised the Government for making the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council divert funding from its research programme to the Energy Technologies Institute. The ETI was established last December as an equal partnership between the public and the private sectors to fund applied-energy technology projects. MPs on the House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee concluded last week in a report on renewable electricity-generation technologies that the research budget should not be compromised by the Government's commitment, "however laudable", to provide increased support for technology. "As such, funding for ETI must be over and above that allocated to the EPSRC Energy Programme," it concluded.

Welsh Assembly

Reaching out to adult learners

The Welsh Assembly Government will consult shortly on a proposed five-year adult community learning policy, with the aim of increasing the number of mature entrants to higher education. Education and Lifelong Learning Minister Jane Hutt revealed the plans in a keynote address at the first conference organised jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning and Niace Dysgu Cymru. Ms Hutt is due to consult in September, and said she would set priorities linked to underrepresented groups. "We want to continue the preparatory training that enables progression in further learning and employment, to provide that bridge from non-learning into the pleasures and rewards that learning can provide," she said. "Our primary focus will be on the hard-to-reach, although not to the complete exclusion of other groups."

Student essay-writing competition

Planes, trains and automobiles

School-leavers are being encouraged to consider transport-related undergraduate courses through a nationwide essay-writing competition which will pay the winners their university fees in full, or give Scottish students an equivalent cash sum. There is a dearth of applications for transport planning courses, despite constant coverage of congestion charges, motorway traffic jams, and the need for sustainable transport links. Transport planning specialist MVA Consultancy has launched the competition to mark its 40th anniversary and to help address the shortage of industry skills in transport planning and engineering. See:

Government consultation

Employees' rights to study

The Government has launched a nationwide consultation on a new right for employees to demand time to study. John Denham, Secretary of State for Universities, said he expected about 300,000 people a year to receive training under the new legislation, which could be in place by 2010. "We have still not persuaded every employer of the importance of skills," he said. "We need to find new ways to bring the drive for skills into every workplace and to every worker." John Cridland, CBI deputy director general, said businesses already invested £39 billion a year in upskilling staff, and were held back by the lack of relevant courses on offer.

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