News in brief

January 15, 2009

Finances

University spending outstrips RPI

Universities' spending on salaries, goods and services rose by almost double the rate of inflation between July 2007 and July 2008, according to Universities UK's annual higher education pay and prices index (Heppi). Heppi hit 8.8 per cent compared with the retail prices index figure of 4.6 per cent. Heppi, which is compiled by academics at the London School of Economics' Department of Statistics, measures changes in the prices faced by UK universities. Salaries and national insurance contributions rose by 11.7 per cent and 10.1 per cent respectively. For the first time, the figures were based on returns from institutions rather than rates determined by the national salary agreement. Spending on energy, water and sewerage showed the largest increase at 12.9 per cent. Rates, rents and insurance rose by 6.2 per cent.

Diversity

HE shut out of 'gay-friendly' list

Universities are failing to meet basic employer diversity standards, according to gay rights charity Stonewall. For the second year running, no university has appeared in the organisation's Top 100 Employers list, which champions gay-friendly workplaces in the UK. David Shields, director of workplace programmes, said the lack of higher education institutions on the list was disappointing, especially since 30 of them had already signed up to the charity's Diversity Champions scheme. "There is hope in that we have seen an increase in the number of universities joining our diversity good practice group," he said. Members of the Diversity Champions group include the University of Cambridge, the London School of Economics, University College London and the University of Birmingham. Lloyds TSB was named the most gay-friendly employer by Stonewall.

Scotland

Graduate school to mix it with MIT

Scotland is aiming to create an international graduate school in computer science to rival world leaders such as Carnegie-Mellon, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by pooling its research talent. The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (Sicsa) is a £29 million initiative between the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the universities of Aberdeen, Abertay Dundee, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, Stirling, Strathclyde and The Robert Gordon University. Sicsa's director, Jon Oberlander, professor of epistemics at the University of Edinburgh, said: "The Sicsa Graduate Academy was the first thing on our wish list ... There is huge international demand from high-quality students to come here and all that's missing is the scholarships." Sicsa, the ninth research group to win funding from the SFC under the "research pooling" initiative, is creating 15 PhD studentships in 2009 and 20 each following year.

Corrections

In a news item last week ("Honours for the sector's movers and scholars", 8 January), we incorrectly described the CBE as "Commander of the British Empire" rather than "Commander of the Order of the British Empire". OBE is "Officer of the Order of the British Empire".

In our list of new year predictions (1 January), we were incorrect to say that Sarah Spurgeon, professor of control engineering at the University of Kent, is at the University of Leicester. She left Leicester in July 2008.

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