News in brief

March 11, 2010

Research councils

Restructure aims to save grants

The Science and Technology Facilities Council will be restructured in a move that, it is hoped, will protect grants for astronomers and physicists in the future. The council has faced a series of funding crises, caused in part by a fall in the value of the pound, which pushed up the costs of subscriptions to international facilities. This has forced the STFC to withdraw from international projects, run national science facilities below capacity and cut grants, studentships and fellowships in physics departments. Under new arrangements for 2011-12, the STFC will receive a ring-fenced budget to manage the UK's large domestic facilities, and the UK's subscription to the European Space Agency will be transferred to a new UK Space Agency. However, no decision has been made over proposals that the Treasury should assume responsibility for paying international subscriptions in the future.

Participation and access

That's wide enough, say bosses

The next government should drop the 50 per cent target for participation in higher education and phase out the cap on tuition fees to ensure that the UK produces the graduates that businesses want, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR). In a pre-election manifesto released on 9 March, the AGR says the currency of a degree has been devalued. It argues that ditching the 50 per cent goal and removing the cap on fees in stages between now and 2020 would result in higher standards and a better student experience. "The AGR was founded in 1968, when there were only 250,000 university students in the UK. Today that figure is more than 2.3 million," said Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR. "There has never been a greater need to build a shared vision for higher education."

Science careers

Few takers for Nobel calling

An overemphasis on high-achieving role models distorts the image young people have of a career in science, a report warns. The Science for Careers Report says that unless science starts to "speak" to young people, the UK will face skills shortages. It argues that there is not enough information available on the careers of scientists in everyday settings, emerging technological sectors or small businesses. The report was produced by the Science for Careers Expert Group, one of the five groups arising from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' Science and Society Consultation.

Food security

Something for everyone

A new research programme is under way to tackle the challenge of feeding the world's growing population. "Global Food Security", which is being led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, has no new money attached to it yet, but the research councils hope to receive dedicated funding for it in the next Comprehensive Spending Review period. The programme, launched on 11 March, brings together the UK's public agri-food research funders, including research councils and government departments.


On 25 February, Times Higher Education reported on a claim that a "considerable drugs culture" exists at Christ Church, Oxford. The college has pointed out that the allegation was made in an anonymous letter sent to authorities and that it was unconfirmed.


As part of our #loveHE campaign, Times Higher Education has asked followers on Twitter to tell us why they love the academy.

This week's tweet of the week is:

I #loveHE because it gives us space to learn for the sake of learning, not for the sake of the bottom dollar - @sciorama

Tell us why you love the sector on Twitter @timeshighered, using the hashtag #loveHE.

Our favourite each week will win a £10 book token.

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