News in brief

February 26, 2009

Lifelong learning

MPs back more adult education

More than 100 MPs have signed an early day motion lamenting the loss of 1.4 million adult-education places over the past two years and calling for more to be done to expand the adult-learning sector. The motion was put forward by Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South and a member of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee. It says: "This House welcomes the launch of the Campaigning Alliance for Lifelong Learning in September 2008 ... (and) believes that, particularly at this time of recession, affordable access to the life-changing opportunities provided by education is the hallmark of a civilised society."

Universities Scotland

Invest in HE, economists demand

Leading economists have called on the Scottish Executive to invest in research to ensure that the country remains competitive after the recession. In a report informed by economists from across Scottish higher education, Universities Scotland says the country's future economic competitiveness will be closely linked to its ability to encourage innovation, research and development within all sectors. "We need to act on this with urgency," says the umbrella group representing the country's 21 universities. The report, What Was/What Next, says Scotland is at an "economic crossroads". It says the Executive must focus on evidence-based policies, rather than those derived from opinion or assumption. "It is the role of universities to try to bring the best analysis and evidence to the table when we as a nation are talking about the issues that affect the lives of every Scot," said Anton Muscatelli, convener of Universities Scotland.

Knowledge transfer

From theory to reality

Academics and technology-transfer officers are being brought together in an attempt to help universities better understand knowledge transfer. The Institute of Knowledge Transfer (IKT) has launched a series of events, Research into Practice, that aims to bring together administrative knowledge-transfer staff with academics who research the process of transferring knowledge from universities to business, including sociologists, economists and geographers. The first of a series of seminars, held on 10 February, addressed the problem of experts working in isolation across the higher education sector. "There is lots of research going on into knowledge transfer on the academic side, but it's very fragmented," said Linda Baines, head of membership services at IKT.

Doctoral training grants

£82m in EPSRC cash awarded

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has announced the winners of £82 million in block grant funding to train future scientists and engineers. The annual doctoral training grants, which will support more than 1,200 PhD students, will go to 45 universities. The funding is awarded on the basis of EPSRC research grant income, although the council declined to reveal the amount of funding each university would receive. Universities are expected to use 10 per cent of their funding for "industry related training to broaden the student experience".


The National Union of Students is prepared to take legal action against universities if students are prevented from sitting their finals. Up until now, the Labour-led NUS has backed the industrial action of university lecturers in support of their pay claim. Student unions have been urged to pass motions in support of the Association of University Teachers. However, the NUS has revealed that it has taken legal advice about the feasibility of suing a university for damages if exams are cancelled or postponed.

Cut-throat competition for research grants and studentships has developed in the relatively new discipline of science-based archaeology in the past three years. Figures from the Science and Engineering Council's science-based archaeology committee show that whereas in 1984 research grant applications had a one-in-two chance of success, in 1987 one in every seven applications was funded.

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