News in brief

August 14, 2008

Employer-partnered qualifications

Raising cash is key concern

Universities offering degrees in partnership with employers are more concerned about raising employer co-funding than quality assurance, according to a new report for the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The report, produced by the Quality Assurance Task Group, concluded that quality was not a dominant concern because the current Quality Assurance Framework is seen as sufficient to deal with the challenges of employer engagement. "Institutions' primary concerns are focused on raising employer demand, co-funding and the longer-term sustainability of new types of provision," the report says.

Widening participation

Scotland's HE gender gap shrinks

There has been a slight reduction in the gender gap among Scotland's students. Scotland's age participation index (API), which measures the percentage of young Scots going into full-time higher education, shows that for 2006-07, there was a 52.9 per cent female participation rate and 41.2 per cent for males. This compares with 53.5 per cent and 41 per cent in the previous year. The figures, published by Scotland's chief statistician, show that the API was 46.9 per cent, a decrease of 0.2 per cent since 2005-06. Young Scots' participation in higher education has hovered around the 50 per cent mark for the past ten years, reaching 51.5 per cent between 2000 and 2002. It stood at about 20 per cent in the mid-1980s.

Tuition fees

Updating Wales's ten-year plan

Student finance in Wales is being investigated under a two-stage review of higher education in the principality, established by Education Minister Jane Hutt. The eight-member "Task and Finish" group, chaired by Merfyn Jones, vice-chancellor of Bangor University, is assessing how well student finance is targeted to widen access and encourage applicants to study priority subjects. It will also consider ways to tackle student debt. The second phase will review the purpose and role of higher education in Wales, looking at developments in both England and the principality, as well as analysing the demands and needs of learners, the economy and society. Ms Hutt said it was time to "refresh" Wales's strategy in light of developments since the 2002 Reaching Higher report, which set out the Assembly Government's ten-year vision for the sector.

Research Councils UK

Researchers' quid pro quos listed

The research councils have published a statement outlining what they expect of grant holders in terms of delivering economic and societal impact. The "Statement of Expectation" outlines 11 things that the seven councils expect grant recipients to do, including "exploit results where appropriate, in order to secure social and economic return to the UK" and "engage actively with the public at both the local and national levels about their research and its broader implications". A spokeswoman from Research Councils UK said the statement bought together existing information and provided clarity. Separately, the councils have also announced a survey of views on the impact of full economic costing, the system under which research funders meet infrastructural costs of research, such as laboratory maintenance, as well as the direct costs. Opinions are sought from universities, government departments, businesses and charities as part of a wide ranging review of FEC. To see RCUK's Statement of Expectation and participate in the consultation, visit

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