News in brief

March 12, 2009

National Environment Research Council

Eye in the sky helping Earth below

A new centre dedicated to using satellite observations for environmental research has been launched by the Natural Environment Research Council. The National Centre for Earth Observation will combine the space observations with other sources of data to help find solutions to some of the world's most pressing environmental problems. Its first projects include determining the global distribution of forest biomass in order to reduce uncertainties in the calculations of carbon stocks and fluxes, and evaluating the processes controlling the composition of the lower atmosphere. The centre has a budget of £33 million over five years and involves more than 100 investigators from 26 UK universities and research centres. It will use data gathered from three new European Space Agency missions set to launch this year.

Universities Select Committee

Students urged to sound off

The cross-party committee responsible for scrutinising higher education policy is asking students for their views. Phil Willis, chairman of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee, has said that he wants to hear what undergraduate students at universities in England think about the university admissions process and whether courses, teaching and university life have lived up to their expectations. Submissions to the forum will feed into the committee's inquiry on students and universities and will contribute to the final report, which will make recommendations to Government. The forum runs until 7 April.

http://forums.parliament.uk/university-students/index.php? index,1

Research excellence framework

Hefce to consult experts

The list of more than 100 experts who will advise the Higher Education Funding Council for England on the forthcoming research excellence framework, the system that will replace the research assessment exercise, has been published. The pool will advise Hefce as it develops its proposals for the REF. The experts are drawn from RAE 2008 panels, research councils, users of research and other organisations. Groups will meet over the coming months, with Hefce due to consult the sector on the proposals during the latter half of 2009.

www.hefce.ac.uk/research/ref

Quality Assurance Agency

Milestone on road to Bologna

A milestone has been reached in an initiative designed to make Europe's higher education qualifications easily comparable. The Bologna Process aims to remove obstacles to the mobility of students and academics and simplify comparison between qualifications across Europe. Now the Quality Assurance Agency has confirmed that its framework to describe the achievement represented by HE qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is compatible with the Bologna Process' qualifications framework. Jayne Mitchell, director of development and enhancement at QAA, said: "UK students can now have greater confidence that the level of their qualification will be recognised across Europe."

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