News in brief

June 10, 2010

Government funding

HE may suffer quango cuts

Higher-education bodies may be targeted in a cull of quangos announced by Vince Cable. In his first major speech, the business secretary announced plans to abolish, merge or cut funding for 33 of the quangos in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. He said that of the 74 such bodies that came under the remit of BIS last year, there were plans to axe 13, with 20 more earmarked to be cut or merged in the next year. BIS did not reveal whether any higher-education bodies, such as the Higher Education Funding Council for England or the Office for Fair Access, were included.

Israeli college boycott

Scholar threatens to sue UCU

An academic has threatened to take legal action against the University and College Union if it imposes a boycott of an Israeli college with which he is affiliated. A motion passed at the UCU congress in Manchester last week proposed "commencing the investigatory process associated with the imposition of a boycott of Ariel College". The union alleges the college has played a significant role in the colonisation of the West Bank. Geoffrey Alderman, Michael Gross professor of politics and contemporary history at the University of Buckingham, said he would take legal action against the UCU, of which he is a member, if any boycott were imposed. He claimed that, as a guest professor at Ariel College, he would view a boycott as a breach of anti-discrimination and equality laws. The UCU declined to comment.

Charity Commission

University status regulation

Powers requiring many universities to be more explicit about their charity status came into force last week. The changes make the Higher Education Funding Council for England the "principal regulator" for the 110 institutions that are exempt from registration with the Charity Commission. The commission's regulatory powers will extend to these institutions, although it must consult Hefce before taking action. The changes are a result of the Charities Act 2006, which requires university colleges and student unions to register with the Charity Commission.

Governance in Wales

Specialist appointments

Leighton Andrews, the Welsh education minister, has appointed John McCormick, former secretary of the BBC and chair of Scottish Qualifications Authority, to chair a review of higher education governance in Wales. In addition, Merfyn Jones, retiring vice-chancellor of Bangor University and chair of the Jones Review of the role of Welsh universities, has been appointed specialist policy adviser on higher education to the Welsh Assembly Government.

Public perception survey

Universities 'not rated highly'

One in 10 members of the public believes that universities contribute nothing to the national economy, according to a survey. The poll, commissioned by Universities UK, also found that only one in five people knows the approximate number of universities in the country, and one in six does not rate them as major local employers, believing universities employ only a fifth of the number of employees they actually do. The survey is part of UUK's "What's the big idea?" campaign to raise awareness of the role of universities and to increase public interest in the sector.

Universities Week, 14-20 June,


Last week, Times Higher Education wrote about a Higher Education Policy Institute report that suggested that achieving comparability in degree classifications across the sector was impossible.

A reader responds online: "What the UK classification means is this: First: exactly like us; 2.1: more or less like us; 2.2: not like us; Third: unspeakable.

"Unless you go to Oxford or Cambridge, in which case it means: First: unspeakable; 2.1: swot; 2.2: gentleman; Third: perfect gentleman."


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