News in brief

January 13, 2011

Researchers' career development

Funders urged to share costs

The burden of funding measures to improve the career development of researchers should be shared by all funders in future. The recommendation comes in a review of progress in the implementation of Sir Gareth Roberts' 2002 report, SET for Success, on the skills-development needs of research students and postdoctoral research staff in the UK. The review, commissioned by Research Councils UK and carried out by a team led by Alison Hodge, university partnerships director at QinetiQ, says the "Roberts money" provided by research councils has had a significant impact on skills development. With Roberts funding ending in March, the report calls on all funders to contribute to ongoing programmes to make sure specialist expertise is not lost. It also calls for programmes to be focused more closely on employment needs.

Technology and innovation

Partners sought for R&D centres

The government is inviting universities and businesses to register their interest in developing the UK's first Technology and Innovation Centre, which will focus on high-value manufacturing. The Technology Strategy Board, which will oversee the £200 million programme, has published a prospectus outlining how it envisages the centres operating. The programme will focus on commercialising research in areas with global market potential. A spokesman for the board said that the government was not being prescriptive about how the centres should take shape, but he envisaged each one involving several universities, perhaps in partnership with local business. The centres will receive core funding from the board and will also be expected to earn private income. Up to eight further centres are envisaged.

Curriculum development

Global goal for learning network

Two universities are aiming to set up a global network of universities engaged in curriculum reform. The universities of Southampton and Aberdeen said the Curriculum Innovation Network would aim to "share learning and approaches in a collaborative way". Its first meeting will take place at Southampton on 18-19 January.

Academic freedom

PhD candidate jailed in Iran

A Durham University student has been sentenced to seven years in prison in Iran. Ehsan Abdoh-Tabrizi, who was arrested last January and held in Tehran's Evin Prison, was reportedly convicted on charges of taking part in anti-government demonstrations during a visit to the country to see his family. Mr Abdoh-Tabrizi's father, who works for the banned reformist newspaper Sarmayeh, told BBC Persian that his son, a PhD student at Durham's School of Government and International Affairs, was innocent. A spokesman for Durham, which was criticised last year for its initial failure to publicise the case, said that the university was "extremely disappointed" to hear of the conviction.


In our cover story "Contravene or intervene?" (6 January), we reported that the Stockholm suicide bomber, Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, had studied at the University of Bedfordshire and "given sermons" at its Islamic Society. Bedfordshire has asked us to point out that although a student of that name graduated from what was then the University of Luton seven years ago, there is no evidence that he preached at the institution. We withdraw this claim.


Last week's revelation that the Browne Review of higher education funding and student finance spent just £68,000 on research, nearly all of which went on an unpublished opinion survey, sparked debate among readers online. Most were critical, but not all. One writes: "Sounds pretty good actually: just concerned and conscientious people, realising that any reliable findings cannot be based on their own research, but rather on the large body of readily available information. Seems like logic, not novel research, was required and was delivered."


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