News in Brief

June 17, 2010

Commons select committees
Labour MPs to take chairs

Two Labour MPs will be in charge of scrutinising UK policy on universities, research and higher education after being elected to head the House of Commons select committees covering science and skills. Adrian Bailey, Labour MP for West Bromwich West, will chair the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, which examines the administration, expenditure and policy of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, is to chair the Science and Technology Committee. "I would like to see the committee focusing its attention on helping to maintain the strength of the UK's science base and also improving public understanding of some of the challenging scientific issues facing us," Mr Miller said.

Scholarship programme
Santander to fund UK students

One of the world's largest banks has launched its first scholarship programme open to UK students studying at home. Santander is to fund 300 additional scholarships from 2010, a commitment of £3.75 million this year. Santander Universities had already awarded 214 postgraduate scholarships for international students to study in the UK over the past three years, along with 388 mobility grants for UK students to study abroad and 8 awards for special projects. The new scheme will be open to all European Union students to study in the UK, at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Previous schemes have been aimed at helping opening up new opportunities across Latin America and Iberian institutions.

Think tank report
Call to scrap teaching funding

Government funding for teaching in UK universities should be scrapped and replaced with money raised through tuition fees, a centre-right think tank says. In a report setting out how to tackle the public-sector deficit, Reform also says the Office for Fair Access and the Higher Education Academy should be abolished. The document - published as an alternative to next week's emergency Budget - sets out savings of £12 billion for education as a whole, including schools and universities. It attacks student loans as a "middle-class subsidy" and suggests gradually lifting the cap on tuition fees until it is removed entirely. This would mean the annual teaching grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England could be replaced by fee income, the report says.

Hefce survey
Income boost from businesses

A survey about the money universities receive from business has revealed that new companies set up by academics and graduates are an increasingly important income source for UK institutions. The Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey, published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, found that the number of enterprises not based on intellectual property established by UK-based university staff increased by 29 per cent between 2007-08 and 2008-09, while the number established by graduates grew by 4 per cent. The survey also found that public and third-sector spending on universities was on the rise, with the value of collaborative research with those sectors increasing by 5 per cent to £730 million and the value of contract research rising by 12 per cent to £937 million. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said the figures were an "astonishing" demonstration of the role that universities play in society and the economy.


Last week, Times Higher Education reported on concerns that plans to measure the social and economic "impact" of UK research could result in controversial work being stifled.

A reader responds online: "Research is being stifled even before being conducted. On a recent grant application of mine, academic reviews were broadly favourable, but the end-user reviewer went ballistic because the research proposal appeared to contradict his organisation's long-cherished policy position. A lot of end-users are really only interested in advocacy research."

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