News in brief

October 8, 2009


Funding diktats on the table

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales is consulting on plans to dictate where more of universities' funding is spent. The consultation, which will end on 6 November, follows the Welsh Assembly Government ordering HEFCW to "increase the strategic use of core funding". Options under consultation include requiring universities to make "efficiency gains" in teaching and research in order to "liberate funding for strategic uses". A 0.4 per cent cut in teaching grant will "liberate" £1 million for strategic use, HEFCW states in a circular to the sector. Universities in Wales have already been asked to prepare financial forecasts for 2009-10 on the basis of a 2 per cent cut in teaching funds and no increase in research cash.


Area studies to lose direct cash

The British Academy is to stop direct funding through its Learned Society Programme. In a letter to the directors of the six societies involved, which represent "area studies" in the UK, it says the programme will end in 2012. The African Studies Association, the research committee of the Association for South-East Asian Studies, the British Association for South Asian Studies, the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, the Joint Initiative for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Society for Libyan Studies receive a total of about £150,000 a year from the academy. A spokesman for the academy said the learned societies would still be able to compete for other sources of funding after 2012.

Select committees

All over for IUSS as STC returns

The House of Commons has re-established the Science and Technology Committee (STC). The rebranded committee has the same membership and chairman as the former Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee. Innovation, universities and skills now come under the remit of the newly formed Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. The STC will hold its first hearing on 14 October, when the Science Minister, Lord Drayson, and the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, John Beddington, are due to appear.

European research

Change or be left behind, EC told

The system for funding European research must be overhauled, the European Commission has been told. The European Research Area Board says change is needed if Europe is to rival the US and keep pace with countries such as China and India. It recommends taking decisions about research funding out of the hands of the EC, dedicating 50 per cent of its research cash to "high-risk" projects, and concentrating the spoils in research-intensive institutions.

Global rankings

China pushes UK into third place

The UK has been overtaken by China as the second-largest producer of academic research. An annual report by data analyst Evidence, published last week, shows that the UK produced more than 91,000 research papers in 2008, 11,000 more than in 2007. However, the increase in volume - equating to 2.3 papers per researcher - was not enough to retain second spot in the global rankings.

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