News in brief

September 8, 2011

Departmental reorganisation

At last, the chemistry is right

King's College London has re-opened its chemistry department eight years after concluding that it was unsustainable. The closure in 2003 occurred amid what the new departmental website describes as "a national climate of declining student numbers" and was preceded by mass resignations. However, according to the Nature news blog, many chemistry academics continued to work in other King's departments and have now been reunited in the resurrected department, which also aims to make five new appointments. According to the King's site, the role of the new department will be to "champion chemistry at King's both in research and teaching". Together with a new undergraduate degree, chemistry with biomedicine, it marks "the dawn of an exciting new era for chemistry at King's", the site states.

Graduate employment

Farming reaps low rewards

The proportion of people who were unemployed three years after graduating has risen from 2.3 per cent of those leaving university in 2003 to 3.6 per cent for the Class of 2007. Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency also show that people who graduated in 2007 earned a median average salary of £25,000 three years later - compared with £20,000 six months after leaving university. Medics were the highest paid (earning £29,000 after six months and £40,000 after three years) and those who studied farming courses the lowest (£17,000 and £20,000). Responding to the Hesa data, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "Students entering a system with the highest public university fees in the world deserve better prospects."

http://bit.ly/riVGEj

Visa reform

Not welcome here?

Students from outside the European Union could be deterred from applying to UK universities because they now believe it is much harder to gain post-study work visas. The findings were made by academics at Loughborough University's department of geography, who looked at how foreign nationals viewed the introduction of biometric residence permits in 2008, and have since broadened their research to consider the impact of more recent immigration changes. Adam Warren and Elizabeth Mavroudi, who presented their research to the annual international conference of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) in London last week, said many students now sensed that they were no longer welcome in the UK.

Tuition-fee reform

Care leavers may not arrive

Changes to the university funding regime will bring an "abrupt halt" to improvements in the number of young people in care who go to university, an expert has warned. The number of care leavers entering higher education has increased from about one in 100 in 2003 to nearly one in 10 today, but Sonia Jackson, professor of social studies and education at the Institute of Education, fears this progress will falter from 2012-13. "Local authorities are having to implement drastic spending cuts and will struggle to offer care leavers as much financial and personal support as they have in recent years," she said. "Higher fees will also be a deterrent because young people with no family to fall back on are very frightened of getting into debt, even though they won't have to make repayments until they are earning a decent salary."

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Last week's article on Glyndwr University's strategy of setting low tuition fees and moving to an explicitly vocational course offering in a "brave and bold" bid to widen participation prompted debate. Responding to readers who scoffed, Newell Hampson-Jones writes: "If you think that trying to educate people post-secondary school does not have any benefit then...(at least) back these opinions with some reasoning other than 'I'm better than these people.' It's boring, it's trite, it's dull, it's why people have a bad impression of the higher education sector."

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