News in brief

March 4, 2010

Funding cuts

Union supports administrators

The UK's largest public sector trade union has warned that cutting administration jobs should not be seen as a pain-free option by universities seeking to reduce costs. Unison held its annual higher education conference in Newcastle last week. Dave Prentis, general secretary, said: "The Government talks about protecting front-line staff, but what does that mean? Lecturers need to get on with the job of teaching students - they cannot do their own administration, collect fees or manage university property. (Administration) staff are crucial to delivering quality higher education."

Court case

Singh appeal hearing opens

Simon Singh, the science writer who is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association, has appeared in court to argue his case. Judges in the Court of Appeal are being asked to rule on the "meaning" of a newspaper article he wrote raising concerns about chiropractors who use spinal manipulation to treat children for conditions such as asthma. Dr Singh is appealing against the decision of a previous judge who said the article, in effect, accused the BCA of deliberate dishonesty in promoting the treatments. The writer said this was not his intention. A decision is expected in six to eight weeks.

Politics

Ministers fail to seek advice

The infrequency with which secretaries of state meet with scientific advisers has been revealed. Information released in response to a parliamentary question reveals that eight secretaries of state did not meet with John Beddington, the chief scientific adviser, once last year. It also shows that three - including the Home Secretary - each held only one meeting with their departmental chief scientific advisers over the period.

Sponsored research

Journal boycotts tobacco papers

A leading scientific journal has said it will stop publishing papers funded in whole or in part by tobacco companies. The policy is outlined in an editorial in the current edition of PLoS Medicine, which says it is introducing the boycott because tobacco is "indisputably bad for health" and because it is "concerned about the industry's longstanding attempts to distort the science of, and deflect attention away from, the harmful effects of smoking". The policy has also been adopted by other journals in the Public Library of Science group.

Employment

Creative possibilities

Graduates in the creative arts were more likely to undertake further study or freelance work after leaving university than find a stable job even before the recession hit. A longitudinal study followed the early careers of 3,500 art and design students who graduated from 26 UK universities between 2002 and 2004. After completing their degrees, 72 per cent of the sample group went on to further study, with more than a quarter returning to higher education. Almost half (45 per cent) worked freelance and 42 per cent took unpaid work after graduating, but the majority (79 per cent) found work of some form in their field.

Correction

The University of Cumbria has stated that it is not closing its Ambleside campus as reported on 11 February. Lectures will still take place on the site, but students will not be based there.

ONLINE NOW

Several hundred people attended the Times Higher Education pre-election debate with the higher education spokesmen from the three main political parties last week. But for those who were not able to attend, there is a second chance to hear the thoughts of David Lammy, Higher Education Minister, David Willetts, Conservative Shadow Universities Secretary, and Stephen Williams, their Liberal Democrat counterpart. To view a video of the event, which was streamed live on www.timeshighereducation.co.uk, visit the website now.

- http://bit.ly/c6DWPS

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