News in Brief

April 21, 2011

Research council funding

RCUK faces 40 per cent cut

The budget of Research Councils UK is to fall by 40 per cent over the coming four-year spending period. According to RCUK's delivery plan, released earlier this month, spending on cross-council activities will fall from £10.4 million in 2010-11 to £6.2 million by 2014-15. The biggest reductions are in the knowledge transfer and impact programme (down 75 per cent) and the careers and diversity programme (down 73 per cent). The latter funds the Vitae organisation, which promotes the career development of research staff and students. Vitae is now expected to be self-sustaining from 2013. The delivery plan says that RCUK intends to increase its influence on international research strategy and to boost UK involvement in global collaborations, particularly with the US, India and China, as well as Brazil, Japan and South Africa. The council will also work more closely with universities and funding councils, particularly on research concentration and on promoting collaboration and the sharing of facilities.

Technical staff

Decreasing pool of technicians

University departments could struggle to replace the large number of technicians due to retire in the next few years. This is the conclusion of a report into the skills and training of university technicians by researchers from King's College London's department of management. Around half of technicians in chemistry, engineering and physics departments are due to retire within the next 15 years, the report says. Chemistry departments typically recruit from the labour market, while engineering and physics departments increasingly rely on apprenticeship schemes. But the report cites concerns that the current financial pressures could encourage universities to cut apprenticeships, while the impending rise in tuition fees could shrink the supply of graduates. The report also calls for a registration scheme for technicians that would make it easier for them move between universities to advance their careers.


More funds for research centre

Imperial College London and King's College London are to become partners in the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation. The two institutions will commit £40 million each to the project: the same sum as the founding academic partner, University College London. The other partners in the £700 million project are the Medical Research Council, which has pledged £300 million, the Wellcome Trust (£120 million) and Cancer Research UK (£160 million). The UKCMRI will accommodate around 1,500 scientists when it opens in the St Pancras area of London in 2015.

British Council award

International student of the year

A student with an extraordinary record of volunteering has been named the British Council's international student of the year. James Xi Xu, an Italian and management studies undergraduate at University College London, was one of 12 finalists chosen from among 1,220 entrants in this year's Shine! awards, for which Times Higher Education was media partner. Mr Xu, 23, has been a UCL volunteering officer as well as a British Red Cross summer intern, and he will help the London Olympic Organising Committee select volunteers for the 2012 Games. The judges found his "letter home" to China, describing his experiences of studying in the UK, the most inspiring.

Online now

The problem of "burnout" among lecturers was highlighted last week in the wake of an international study on the topic by researchers at the University of Leicester.

Commenting on the issue, a reader writes: "One shouldn't underestimate the impact of consumerist students on stress levels: I have noticed that student feedback has become a lot harsher in tone and more personally insulting, often betraying an attitude of 'I pay, so I want it like this'."


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