News in brief

June 9, 2011

Ethical donations

Reject tobacco cash, urges CRUK

Durham University has been asked by a senior official at Cancer Research UK to return funding from British American Tobacco. The firm donated £125,000 to fund scholarships at Durham for women from Afghanistan, but in a blog on the CRUK website, Robin Hewings, the charity's tobacco control policy manager, says that "the tobacco industry's record means academic institutions should have nothing to do with it". Mr Hewings argues that the industry "seeks to gain unwarranted respectability by association with credible bodies such as universities" and that "these kinds of donations aim to create an environment where there are soft government policies on tobacco". A Durham spokesman said the donation had contributed to a "pioneering scheme, helping the reconstruction of a war-torn country through women's education".

Engineering scholarships

Dyson provides £1 million

A £1 million scholarship scheme has been set up by a British businessman to support students in design and engineering. Sir James Dyson, best known for his eponymous vacuum cleaner, has donated £1 million through the James Dyson Foundation to address what he says is a shortage of engineers in the UK. Sir James said that the country produces 24,000 engineering graduates a year, compared with 300,000 in China and 450,000 in India. The donation will pay for four postgraduate bursaries of £25,000 a year, which will be available to students at the universities of Bath and Bristol, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Imperial College London. Awards will be made on the basis of students' "passion" for engineering, academic merit and financial need.

University applications

Hopefuls outstrip places, again

The number of applicants for university places has risen again this year, prompting claims that thousands more qualified students will miss out on places. According to the latest statistics published last week by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the number of UK applicants has risen 0.8 per cent year on year, while the number of other European Union students is up 5.8 per cent and the number from outside the EU by 4.9 per cent. A total of 647,008 people had applied to study at UK universities by 23 May, of whom 550,147 were home students. This compares with a total of 637,773 on 23 May 2010. Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said: "Last year over a quarter of a million qualified and ambitious young people missed out on a deserved place at university. This year the government has failed to add to the number of university places...meaning we are likely to see an increase in the numbers being denied a place."

Student employment

Temporary answer

A scheme that allows universities to employ students as temps has been joined by another institution.

The University of Surrey has signed up to Unitemps, which was set up by the University of Warwick in 1997 and now covers more than 100,000 students at institutions including Birmingham City University and the University of Nottingham. James Newby, Surrey's director of traded services and business support, said: "Our move to link up with other universities through the Unitemps service helps us to offer even greater value to students while improving the overall efficiency of our services."

ONLINE NOW

Last week's leader on the shortage of permanent academic posts being chased by increasing numbers of postdoctoral researchers provoked debate among readers.

One writes: "It is true that many will fail to find permanent academic jobs, but the point is that the best and most productive will.

"It's tough, but it does mean that the standard of permanent academics is maintained, and for those postdocs that don't make the grade, well, it's a good life while it lasts."

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