News in brief

January 28, 2010


Scholars still make up minority

Less than half of all staff in higher education are academics. Data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that of 382,760 staff working in the sector in December 2008, 179,040 (46.8 per cent) were academics. In 2006, the figure was 46.6 per cent. Hesa also reports that just 18.7 per cent of professors were female, compared with 43.4 per cent of the total academic workforce. And it shows that 64.8 per cent of academic staff were on open-ended or permanent contracts at the end of 2008, with 35.2 per cent on fixed-term contracts.


Jisc freezes allocations

The Joint Information Systems Committee has frozen all funding decisions under orders from the Higher Education Funding Council for England in light of cuts to the higher education budget. A Jisc spokeswoman said capital-fund commitments had been suspended ahead of a Hefce board meeting this week, where allocation decisions will be made. Jisc's current funding cycle will end in March 2012. A spokeswoman said its plans to "manage its headcount and staffing levels" were under review, but that there were no plans for redundancies.

Undergraduate numbers

Acceptances rise, proportion falls

More than 25,000 extra full-time undergraduates started university or college last autumn compared with 2008, a 6 per cent rise. However, figures published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service also show that the proportion of applicants accepted fell slightly. In 2009, 639,860 people applied and 75 per cent were accepted - down from 78 per cent in 2008. Ucas also reports a rise of just over 10 per cent in the number of international students accepted.

Climate change

MPs investigate distortion claims

MPs have begun an inquiry into the publication of data, emails and documents relating to the work of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. The investigation follows the publication of more than 1,000 hacked documents, which led to claims that data had been manipulated to strengthen the case for climate change. The Science and Technology Committee will consider whether there is any evidence of manipulation or suppression of data; the unit's compliance with best scientific practice; and security issues.

Graduate employment

Masters of the job market

The career prospects of masters graduates have been hurt less by the recession than those of people with only first degrees, the Higher Education Careers Services Unit has said. Between 2008 and 2009, the unemployment rate among new masters graduates rose 0.4 percentage points to 4.1 per cent, compared with a rise of 2.4 percentage points to 7.9 per cent among first-degree holders, according to a study out this week.

Overseas students

Entrants aim to shine brightest

The British Council's International Student Awards 2010, held in association with Times Higher Education, have attracted more than 1,000 entries. The entrants, who last year hailed from more than 100 countries, are asked to give inspirational accounts of their achievements while studying in the UK.


Elsevier, the publisher of Medical Hypotheses, proposes that the unorthodox journal be revamped as a peer-reviewed publication. The plans, reported on, are detailed in a letter to the journal's editor, Bruce Charlton. They follow the controversy about a paper in Medical Hypotheses that denied the link between HIV and Aids.

Professor Charlton opposed the plans for the journal, which publishes papers chosen by him on the basis of how radical, interesting and well argued they are.


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