News in brief

August 6, 2009

Economic recovery

'Fresh thinking' panel set up

Lord Mandelson has set up an advisory panel to examine links between economic recovery, skills and higher education. The New Industry, New Jobs, Universities and Skills panel will be chaired by Roger Liddle, vice-chair of the Policy Network think-tank and a visiting fellow of the European Institute of the London School of Economics. Other panel members include Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group of universities, and Nicholas Barr, professor of public economics at the LSE. The First Secretary said the panel would "generate new ideas and fresh thinking."

European Research Council

Review fears for sustainability

An independent review of the European Research Council - set up in 2007 to fund the best scientists across the European Union - has raised serious concerns about the sustainability of the institution. The examination of the ERC's structures and mechanisms during its first two years of operation found that it had succeeded "beyond expectations", with great success in attracting large numbers of grant applications and outstanding scientists from around the world to review them. However, it also warned that "at the most fundamental level" there was an incompatibility between the current governance philosophy, administrative rules and practices and the stated goals of the ERC. The review highlights "overly onerous" regulations covering the recruitment and expenses of reviewers as one factor discouraging scientists from participation in the ERC's review process.

Leeds Metropolitan University

UEL's Price to take over at top

Leeds Metropolitan University has appointed Susan Price, acting vice-chancellor of the University of East London, as its new vice-chancellor. Professor Price took the reins at UEL in July 2008 after Martin Everett, its former vice-chancellor, was suspended over allegations of poor leadership made by his senior management team. He resigned in March 2009 after a disciplinary hearing. Professor Price will continue as acting vice-chancellor of UEL until she joins Leeds Met on 1 January 2010. The Leeds Met vacancy arose after another controversial departure. Simon Lee, its former vice-chancellor, resigned in January 2009 after Ninian Watt, the chair of the board of governors, gave him an ultimatum to either leave or face an investigation into "serious complaints regarding his treatment of staff".


Support for postdoctoral researchers

Careers cash is vital

Roberts money matters - that is the message from an informal consultation held by Vitae, the national organisation for the development of doctoral researchers and research staff. The consultation found "overwhelming support" for the continuation of the ring-fenced stream to help enhance researchers' personal and career development, which grew out of the Roberts review. There is also concern for its future because the money had only been confirmed until 2010-11. Universities have received the money since 2003-04.


In the 30 July issue, a line in Tom Palaima's contribution to The Canon, referring to the debate over Michael Ventris' decipherment of Linear B, should have read: "Others stood by the rightly great Sir Arthur's long-prevailing ideas that the language in the Linear B tablets would turn out not to be Greek and denied the validity of the decipherment." We apologise for the error.


Last week's story about proposals for a Europe-wide definition of academic freedom, including the suggestion that academics should be able to choose their own vice-chancellors, provoked a wide range of comments online.

One reader, Phill, said: "The role of the vice-chancellor is far too broad. They have too much power of patronage in the university and are not accountable to students and only partially to academics."

Another, Peter, said: "A vote on VC and 'senior management' pay and expenses would be fun."


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