News in brief

February 19, 2009

University finances

No bankruptcies ahead, says DIUS

The Government has issued reassurances that no university is at risk of going bankrupt, after off-the-cuff remarks by its chief science adviser were reported last week by Times Higher Education on its website (www.timeshighereducation.co.uk). Adrian Smith, director-general for science and research, said at a meeting in London: "A major debate that ought to have taken place around about now is whether the current cap on student fees of £3,000 should have been raised or changed. That debate has been kicked into touch until after the (general) election because neither party wanted to touch it. In the meantime, universities are going bankrupt because they don't have enough money." A spokesman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said: "Universities are not going bankrupt, and the timing of the fees review is not a threat to their financial viability. Ministers have always been clear that an independent review will begin this year following our debate on the future of higher education."

Postgraduate scholarships

UCL fills overseas funding gap

A London university has launched a £1.3 million fund to support overseas postgraduate students in response to government plans to axe a key scholarship programme. University College London said it had stepped in to fill the breach left by Whitehall's decision to wind down the Overseas Research Student Awards Scheme over three years. With overseas researchers often essential to the work of British research departments, UCL said other institutions may want to follow its lead. David Bogle, head of UCL's Graduate School, said: "We hope that other institutions will follow suit because we need to work to reinforce the high esteem in which the UK higher education sector is held."

Global food supply

Foresight about feeding the world

A project examining how the world will be able to feed its rapidly expanding population was launched last week by Foresight, the Government's "horizon-scanning" think-tank. The Food and Farming Futures project will assist policymakers in developing strategies for the future by consulting experts across a wide range of disciplines. It will consider methods to feed a global population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050, significantly higher than the current population of 6.5 billion.

House of Commons Select Committee

Call for topics to add to agenda

Do you have a concern about higher education that you think MPs should address? The House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee is asking academics to suggest topics for oral evidence hearings this spring. They should be issues that are not already under examination, that are timely and that could be covered in two hours of oral evidence. Suggestions must be submitted to the committee by February in an email of no more than 750 words that outlines the topic, details any personal interest in the area and suggests who should be called as a witness. Personal grievance or tribunal cases will not be considered. The sessions will take place in April and May.

Email submissions to iuscomm@parliament.uk. For more information, visit www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/ius.cfm.

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