News in brief

December 23, 2010

Mergers

Combination in principle

Two universities have agreed in principle to merge and create a single institution for southwest Wales. Swansea Metropolitan University and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David plan to unify under one organisational structure, although they will keep their names. They also hope to involve local further education colleges in establishing a "regional educational group". The move follows a warning from Leighton Andrews, the education minister for Wales, that future funding may depend on the willingness of institutions to merge.

Appointments

Council seeks new faces

New blood is being sought for the Council for Science and Technology. The council, which reports directly to the prime minister and advises on policy issues, is seeking 10 new members, with recruitment due to start next month. The government has also appointed four ex-officio members and reappointed five existing members: Dame Janet Finch, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Manchester; Hermann Hauser, the venture capitalist; Alan Hughes, director of the Centre for Business Research at the University of Cambridge; Michael Sterling, chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council; and Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust.

Cuts

Poll: scrapping EMA will hit poor

A survey by a further education college has found that almost all its students who receive the threatened education maintenance allowance (EMA) would struggle without it. The government wants to rethink the £30-a-week payment, claimed by about 600,000 students from poorer families in England, because it believes the majority of the cash goes to people who would stay on in post-16 education anyway. Middlesbrough College, where 67 per cent of 16- to 18-year-olds receive the EMA, polled 2,000 of its students and from 781 responses found that 61 per cent would struggle to attend college without it. The survey was published to coincide with a day of action against the plans.

Medical research

Bid to help the aged

Universities are being invited to bid to run a new centre that will carry out research into musculoskeletal ageing. The facility is being established by the Medical Research Council and the charity Arthritis Research UK via a £2.5 million investment that will also cover the centre's running costs for five years. It will recruit a multidisciplinary team of scientists, physiologists and clinical professionals, but the precise nature of the work carried out will depend on the institution chosen to run the facility. The closing date for the first stage of applications is 23 February 2011.

http://tinyurl.com/lr4sly

European research

UK primus inter pares

A further 13 UK institutions have been recognised by the European Commission for their commitment to improving researchers' working conditions and career development. A total of 23 British institutions have now been awarded the HR Excellence in Research badge, compared with just 15 in the rest of Europe. The accolades reflect institutions' progress in implementing the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, launched in 2008, which reflects principles agreed at the European level.

ONLINE NOW

The range of options unveiled last week for the future funding of Scottish higher education provoked mixed responses online.

One reader writes: "Whatever is chosen, for the sake of Scottish higher education, please let it not be like the fudge last time - England got the state contribution plus the fee, Scotland got the state contribution minus the fee.

"Fees for Scottish students were then paid by yet another quango. The result? Increased bureaucracy, decreased cash. Barmy."

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