News in brief

May 12, 2011

Teaching and learning

HEA distributes £1.5m in grants

The Higher Education Academy is offering £1.5 million over the next year in teaching development grants, which are designed to support innovation in teaching and learning. The call for bids for the first phase of the scheme opened this week, with grants totalling £315,000 available for individuals, with a maximum of £7,000 per project. Of this total, £28,000 has been ring-fenced for new academic staff - those who have spent less than five years in a full-time permanent post. A further £28,000 has been ring-fenced for HEA Fellows who have not previously had a teaching development grant. The themes for the call are internationalisation and employability, and the closing date for bids is 15 June.

Stem-cell research

Work may resume, US court rules

A US court has overturned last year's preliminary injunction halting research on human embryonic stem cells. The ruling stems from a case filed in 2009 by two scientists who study adult stem cells. The pair claimed that guidelines from the National Institutes of Health that expanded research on embryonic stem cells violated a law banning the use of federal funds for research that destroyed embryos. In August 2010, a district court judge agreed with them and issued a preliminary injunction halting funding for the research. The ban was later blocked by the US Court of Appeals, and the case was turned over to a panel of three judges to consider. In a ruling last week, reported by the Science Insider website, the panel announced a split decision. Two judges ruled that the NIH had properly interpreted the law, but a third judge dissented, leaving the door open to further legal challenge.

Widening participation

Cambridge takes 16 black Britons

The University of Cambridge increased its proportional intake from state schools and colleges last year, but only 16 of all successful UK applicants for undergraduate places were black. Admissions statistics for October 2010, published last week, show that successful applicants from the state sector made up 59.3 per cent of all home students who gained a place, an increase of 0.8 of a percentage point on the previous year. However, state-school applicants' success rate remains lower than that of their independent-school peers: 25 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively. The data show that there were 151 black UK applicants, 16 of whom Cambridge accepted.


Nottingham suspends lecturer

A lecturer said he has been suspended by the University of Nottingham for criticising its treatment of a postgraduate student who downloaded an al-Qaeda training manual from a US government website. Rod Thornton, a lecturer in Nottingham's School of Politics and International Relations, published a paper criticising the university on the British International Studies Association's website. In the article, later taken down by BISA, Dr Thornton writes that Rizwaan Sabir's 2008 arrest and detention was "an indication of the way in which, in the UK of today, young Muslim men can become so easily tarred with the brush of being 'terrorists'". Theo Farrell, BISA vice-chair, said the organisation took down the paper after "complaints from academics at Nottingham". A university spokesman said that academic freedom was a cornerstone of the university, but it did not extend to "the freedom to defame your co-workers".


Last week's story about inadequate levels of English among some PhD students at UK universities sparked online debate among readers. One says: "A good university and good supervisors should recognise the need for additional training to help brilliant minds achieve their potential (to the benefit of the university and the candidate). If they are interested in reputation and research rather than just student fees, they will try to get the best PhD candidates and do their part."


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