News in Brief

December 18, 2008

Ucea

UCU pay claim 'excessive'

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association has described an 8 per cent pay claim for 2009-10 submitted by the University and College Union last week as "excessive" and "extremely premature". Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said in a letter to Ucea with the pay claim: "Our negotiators are seeking a meeting with representatives of Ucea before 31 January 2009 to progress negotiations. Should Ucea decline this meeting UCU will consider appropriate measures to pursue the claim." But Ucea chair Bill Wakeham replied that he was "disconcerted" that the claim was sent "prematurely" as formal pay talks are not scheduled to begin until March 2009. The UCU has not signed up to the formal pay negotiating structure and timetable agreed by the other campus unions.

Immigration regulations

Professor urges non-compliance

A professor at the London School of Economics has called on his academic colleagues to refuse to comply with rules requiring universities to report absent foreign students to immigration authorities. Under a new points-based immigration system, institutions must report students who miss "ten or more interactions" without permission or good reason. In the Financial Times, Willem Buiter, professor of European political economy at the LSE's European Institute, said individual faculty members should consider refusing to comply with the law. "It may be enough to record students who are absent as 'absent with reason'." He told Times Higher Education: "Philosophically, 'absent' is always absent for a reason or absent with reason. So I would experience only a mild Pinocchio-like nose-lengthening if I were to record all absent students as 'absent with reason'."

Spin-off companies

Minister moots start-up funding

The Government is considering introducing a £1 billion fund that could help university spin-off companies get off the ground. The funding pot, which would support technology start-ups, is under debate after Paul Drayson, the Minister for Science and Innovation, publicly stated that he approved of the idea. It was first put forward by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts after it warned that, with private venture capital retreating from the sector, technology companies were in grave difficulty. Mr Drayson said: "We need to do more to get UK funds and UK institutions investing at scale in promising early-stage technology firms."

Libraries

Open all hours

University libraries are open for 20 hours more a week than they were ten years ago. Figures from the Society of College, National and University Libraries show that opening hours have risen by almost a third over the past ten years, from an average of 68 a week in 1996-97 to 88 a week in 2006-07. New university libraries tended to be open the longest - an average of 92 hours a week. SCONUL said the growth could be attributed partly to increasing numbers of part-time students.

London South Bank University

Museum boss named new v-c

A museum director has been appointed head of London South Bank University. Martin Earwicker is director of the National Museum of Science and Industry group of museums, which includes London's Science Museum and the National Railway Museum in York. David Longbottom, pro chancellor and chair of the board of governors at London South Bank, said: "The appointments committee was impressed by Professor Earwicker's commitment to widening participation in education; and his blend of commercial, academic and public-sector experience gives him a unique perspective." Professor Earwicker will take up the post of vice-chancellor and chief executive after Deian Hopkin retires in April.

Universities UK

Exeter's Smith elected president

Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, has been elected president of Universities UK. Professor Smith, who heads the 1994 Group of smaller research-intensive universities, will succeed current president Rick Trainor, principal of King's College London, on 1 August next year, and will hold the post for two academic years. Professor Smith said 2009 would be "a year of changes for UUK, and no doubt for the higher education sector". His term as president of the 1994 Group is due to end in August, so the roles will not overlap.

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