News in brief

November 6, 2008

Admissions procedures

Language rules may discriminate

Certain university admissions procedures may breach equality legislation, the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) has warned. Some universities have a rule that "native foreign-language qualifications" are excluded when assessing an applicant for admission to certain courses or programmes because a native-language speaker would be expected to find it easier to gain a qualification in his or her mother tongue than a non-native speaker. But the ECU warned last week: "There is a risk that the operation of such an exclusion may unlawfully discriminate on the grounds of race against those regarded as possessing the native-language qualifications." It says institutions might be making unjustifiable assumptions about who is a native-language speaker, based on race, for example.

Confederation of British Industry

Give industry a 'central role'

Collaboration between universities and businesses will help the UK retain its competitive edge in the world economy, according to a joint report from Universities UK and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which calls on universities to be innovative in the way they spend money to reach out to business. Sponsored by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the report recommended that universities rethink their relationship with students to give employers a "central role", and to allow academics enough time to understand the jobs of the business people they are training. Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, said: "By failing to harness the knowledge and expertise of universities, businesses could be missing out on the chance to get high-quality tailor-made training that will help their companies prosper in the longer term."

Humanities research

Transatlantic arts deal agreed

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the US National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) have signed a memorandum of understanding to foster scholarly collaboration and research in the humanities. "Art serves as a primary document of a civilisation; it can reveal important truths about a nation's people and past," said Bruce Cole, chairman of the NEH. Shearer West, director of research at the AHRC, said: "The AHRC and the NEH will encourage efforts to foster the development of innovative digital resources, research in the humanities and collegial interaction between scholars, librarians, curators and other museum professionals for continued academic work on humanities subjects."


In the article "Employers want to retain final-salary pensions"(30 October), we reported that the University of Sussex was seeking to reduce a £23 million deficit in its local pension scheme by introducing a defined-contribution scheme for new members and by reducing benefits for existing ones. Under pensions law, past service deficits in such schemes must be met by the employer, not the employees, and Sussex said it was meeting the cost in full. "The reason we are proposing to make changes to the existing scheme in relation to future service and to introduce a new scheme for new entrants is to reduce the university's exposure to significant financial risk," the university said.

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