News in brief

January 8, 2009

Scotland

Time to talk about top-up fees

Top-up fees could be about to become an attractive idea for Scotland, according to one of the country's education chiefs. David Caldwell, director of Universities Scotland, said his organisation was "very concerned" about the possibility of the cap on fees being lifted in England because Scottish universities could not afford to have less funding than their English counterparts. He said he "wouldn't be surprised" if the Scottish Government seriously considered top-up in the near future.

AHRC

Swindon move to save £400,000

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) announced last month that it was to move from its Bristol headquarters to join five other research councils in Swindon, with effect from March 2010. A statement from the AHRC says the decision was taken both for "compelling" economic reasons and so the council's staff could interact with members from other research councils as part of a more integrated research landscape. "The move will also mean AHRC staff will have much greater prospects for promotion within the context of the wider research council community in Swindon," said Philip Esler, the council's chief executive. The move is expected to save the AHRC as much as £400,000 a year in rent.

STFC

Review warns 'much to be done'

More than a year and a half after it was formed in a merger of two research councils, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has been warned that its development in a number of areas has been "too slow". An organisational review was ordered by the Government after a budget crisis last year, which saw particle physicists and astronomers up in arms over cuts to grants and projects. An external panel has delivered 20 recommendations to improve the organisation. It said there was still "much to be done", strategically and operationally, because the STFC "feels like two organisations" and was still running parallel finance, human resources and information-technology systems.

New technology

Parents log in to children's lives

Parents are embracing new technologies to keep in contact with their student children during term time, according to a poll from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Three quarters of parents (75 per cent) are on social networking sites such as Facebook and, of these, more than two thirds (64 per cent) are "friends" with their children, enabling them to have regular contact. About 10 per cent of parents have set up a blog to communicate with their children and 12 per cent use webcams.

Correction

In a panel accompanying a news item last week (Number crunching: top eight stand to lose £140 million a year, page 4), we compared institutions' share of total research funding with their potential future share of income after the results of the 2008 research assessment exercise. In the text, we incorrectly reported the possible decline in funding share for some institutions as percentage falls, when they should have been reported as "percentage point" differences.

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