News in Brief

December 2, 2010

British Council

Language programme saved

A scheme that allows language students to spend a year abroad teaching English has survived the threat of closure. The Department of Education will continue to fund the British Council's language assistants programme, which has been running for more than a century. Martin Davidson, British Council chief executive, said: "For many language students at UK universities, it is a valuable way for them to immerse themselves in another language and culture...For thousands more overseas, the assistants are an important contact with the English language and British culture." Recruitment for next year's scheme is now open, with a deadline of 14 January.

Equality Challenge Unit

Motherhood issues

Higher education institutions may be failing to meet new legal duties to ensure pregnant students and new mothers are not discriminated against, according to a watchdog. The Equality Challenge Unit found that pregnant students can be forced to withdraw from courses, to take longer away from study after giving birth than they wish, or be prevented from sitting examinations. The Equality Act 2010 introduces protection for students during pregnancy and maternity by extending rules that already exist for women in work. Ellen Pugh, senior policy adviser at the ECU, said: "Institutions must be ready to support these students."

Research excellence framework

Subpanel chairs unveiled

The names of the subpanel chairs for the 2014 research excellence framework have been announced. The 36 subpanel chairs will report to the four main panel chairs, whose names have already been announced. Gillian Douglas of Cardiff University will chair the law subpanel, which was recently the subject of controversy after the main law subject associations complained about a decision by panel chair Dame Janet Finch and the Higher Education Funding Council for England to reject the candidates they had endorsed. Professor Douglas is one of three subpanel chairs from Cardiff University. University College London and the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester also have three subpanel chairs each.

Biotechnology research

Links with Taiwan established

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has signed an agreement with the National Science Council of Taiwan to collaborate on biotechnology research. The memorandum of understanding focuses on research into food security, bioenergy and industrial biotechnology and basic bioscience underpinning health. Douglas Kell, chief executive of the BBSRC, said such partnerships "will enable us to deliver the fullest range of social and economic impacts of the work we fund".

European research funding

Grant calls await merger

The European Science Foundation has postponed three funding calls until it completes its merger with the European Heads of Research Councils. The merger was announced this summer, but discussions about the new organisation, whose membership would include most European national research funders, are ongoing. Decisions will not be ratified until next May, when grant-giving will resume. The postponed programmes relate to research networking, collaborative research and themes yet to be agreed.


Last week Tim Marshall, chief executive of the Janet IT network, told a conference on shared services that universities should get rid of ineffective managers with "ponytails and sandals" and replace them with people with "the guts to take things forward".

A reader writes: "Would that be the same kind of 'professionals' who did such a great job of our banking and investment systems? I don't see many ponytails or sandals when I visit RBS or Goldman Sachs. Perhaps that is the problem?"

Plus: Breaking news, opinion and more reader debate.

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