News in brief

September 25, 2008

14-19 diplomas

Employers express reservations

Richard Lambert, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, has warned that the new 14-19 diplomas system is confusing for employers. Speaking at a CBI education summit last week, Mr Lambert reiterated employers' concerns about the diplomas in science, the humanities and languages and claimed that the whole system was too complicated for businesses to understand. "The system as proposed may confuse parents and employers," he said. "Instead of seven levels of diploma, our members think there should be two: one for 15 to 16-year-olds and another for 16 to 18-year-olds. That would make them a lot easier to understand." After a consultation with its members, the CBI "found serious reservations among employers about the value of the so-called academic diplomas", Mr Lambert said. "The Government has much work to do if it's to convince businesses that they will add anything to what's already available."

Student loans

Sale Bill implementation mystery

The Government has declined to confirm whether it still intends to begin selling student loans in 2008. The Sale of Student Loans Bill is now law after gaining Royal Assent on 21 July. The Government set out plans to raise £6 billion from loan sales in the Comprehensive Spending Review. In April, Baroness Morgan, minister at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius), said Deutsche Bank had been appointed to help "prepare for student loan sales in 2008-09". John Hayes, the Shadow Minister for Further Education and Skills, has written to the Government asking what progress has been made since then. A Dius spokesman said: "We will look to maximise value for money from an ongoing long-term programme of student loan sales, and we will keep the market position under review. The original estimates of proceeds were forecasts, not commitments, and the position on the public finances will be set out in the Pre-Budget Report."

Research collaboration

Japanese deal on systems biology

The UK and Japan have struck an agreement on systems biology to strengthen research collaborations. Under a memorandum of understanding signed last week in Swindon by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Japan Science and Technology Agency, each will align their individual schemes for the partnering and exchange of researchers. Systems biology is an emerging approach to bioscience that combines theory, computer modelling and experiments.


New awards for excellence

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has launched a prize to encourage top biology departments to engage in the transfer of knowledge from universities to business. A £150,000 "Excellence with Impact Award" will go to a bioscience department that has embedded a culture of economic and social impact. The "Innovator of the Year Award" is a £10,000 prize for an individual or team that has harnessed the economic and social potential of their research.


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