News in brief

September 16, 2010

Research standards

Matters of integrity

The UK needs a new system for research integrity that builds on its existing strengths, a review states. A report published last week by the UK Research Integrity Futures Working Group, led by Dame Janet Finch, says there is increasing concern that the pressures of modern research may conflict with its integrity. In a reference to the "Climategate" controversy at the University of East Anglia, "periodic concerns" about "high-profile research issues" have undermined public confidence in research, it says. It adds that the "imminent end" of funding for the UK Research Integrity Office creates a need to ensure that its work is maintained. From 2010, the UK should have a single body to lead on the common issues of research integrity across all disciplines, types of research and research establishments, the report states. It should be closely linked with, but independent from, research funders and regulators. Rick Rylance, the Research Councils UK champion for research careers, said: "RCUK is considering the recommendations made and the best way to take them forward in the changing economic climate."

Graduate employment

Independence for careers services

University careers services should be transformed into independent not-for-profit businesses that act as "recruitment consultants" for students, a think-tank has argued. A new study by Demos, Class of 2010, says the move would reduce graduate unemployment and encourage graduates to live and work close to their alma mater after entering the workplace. But research by the think-tank found that the "class of 2010" prioritise a healthy work-life balance and the social impact of their jobs over starting salaries. A quarter of students claimed that they would turn down a job offer if the employer had a poor environmental record.

Public engagement

Demonstrable impact

A pilot project has helped universities to describe the ways in which they benefit the public. The areas highlighted under the Higher Education Funding Council for England project are: boosting the economy; developing people; innovating, informing and inspiring; engaging communities; informing public policy and the professions; stimulating local economic development; and building international connections. It is hoped that the categories will provide the grounding for developing a system of metrics to quantify the impact of higher education. A total of universities and colleges took part in the process, with 21 submitting "public-benefit statements" to the funding council. The results of the study are described in a Hefce publication, Service to Society, which provides case studies of demonstrable impact.

Students with disabilities

Inclusion pilots wanted

The Higher Education Academy is looking for 10 universities to take part in a trial project to engage students with disabilities in the design and delivery of university degrees. The programme, funded by the higher education funding councils for England and Wales, will help the pilot universities to include the students in course-design decisions. Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said the Meaningful Student Engagement in Higher Education project would "give disabled students the much-needed opportunity to become engaged with the planning of their learning experience".


Last week, Times Higher Education reported that a leading British neuroscientist is leaving the UK for Canada, warning of a brain drain if public funding for research is savaged. One reader, David, responded online: "Good. The bankers have been pleading 'You can't do that - we'll go abroad!' for years in order to get political favours and high salaries, as have the ... vice-chancellors." But another reader, Susannah, said she found talk of a brain drain "ironic considering how many more obstacles the UK is creating for people wishing to immigrate".


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