News in brief

August 7, 2008

Universities' financial health

Sector's credit score is good

Universities in the UK are on a firm financial footing but face serious challenges, a study has suggested. The report, by credit rating firm Standard & Poor's, based on an analysis of 25 institutions, shows a sector that is largely financially sound, with most institutions being "of high investment-grade credit quality". But it says universities are facing "significant spending pressures" from higher wage bills and "more intense pressure to spend on infrastructure". Increased global competition could see some universities "ceasing to exist", it adds. "Given the upcoming demographic decline of 18-year-olds and the effects of increased globalisation, universities must judge whether their planned level of investment in staff and facilities is justified by the realistic prospect of higher revenues in the long term," the report says.

Student employability

Arts graduates quizzed on careers

Researchers at the Institute of Employment Studies are examining the early careers of art and design graduates in an attempt to understand the value of a creative arts degree. More than 23,000 graduates between 2001 and 2004 will be asked about how well prepared they were for the labour market, their current employment and their ambitions. Paul Newland, principal lecturer in the School of Art, Design and Media at the University of Portsmouth, said: "Creative arts graduates are slow burn - they ignite into high-profile careers often five to ten years after graduating."

Synchrotron Radiation Source

Well-earned retirement at 28

The Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS) closed this week after 28 years of operation. Based at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Daresbury Laboratory in Warrington, the "super microscope" used synchrotron light to study materials at the atomic scale. Ian Munro, one of its founders, said it "has kept the UK at the forefront of scientific research and now passes its baton on to the new Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire".

DIUS consultation

Department seeks input via blog

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has launched a blog to encourage debate on higher education issues. The blog asks for contributions on themes including part-time studies, intellectual property and the student experience ahead of official consultation on a new framework for UK higher education. To participate, visit

Research councils

Tracking the progress of PhDs

A long-term study to track the careers of research postgraduates has been commissioned by the research councils. A "panel" made up of all British and European Union-domiciled doctoral graduates will be set up and their careers tracked over a number of years. Iain Cameron of Research Councils UK said the councils wanted to know what graduates with research degrees actually did, whether a PhD was necessary for their jobs and how their skills helped them and their employers. Initial results will be released in May 2009.

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