News in brief

September 29, 2011

White Paper consultation

New Year, new universities bill

The government is expected to issue an official response to separate consultations on the higher education White Paper and the regulation of the sector at the same time early in the New Year. The coalition's response will form the basis of what it proposes to include in a Higher Education Bill, to be presented in the next session of Parliament, which begins in May 2012. Consultation on the White Paper ended last week, with sector bodies expressing numerous concerns. A separate consultation on the future shape of regulation will end on October.

Research councils

'Capability' browns off scientists

Six leading scientific bodies, including the Royal Society, have urged the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to reconsider its "shaping capability" measures. The presidents of The Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, as well as the deputy president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, have written to EPSRC chief executive David Delpy urging him to delay introduction of the measures to allow wider consultation. They have also urged him "to consider further the implications of these policy changes on UK research". Shaping capability would allow the EPSRC to raise, maintain or decrease funding for specific subjects based on national importance and existing excellence. The intervention follows complaints over the treatment of specific disciplines, and a perceived lack of consultation.

Open-access publishing

Funders pay Wiley-Blackwell fees

Three funding agencies have signed an open-access funding agreement with publisher Wiley-Blackwell. Germany's Max Planck Society, the Austrian Science Fund and Italian biomedical funder Telethon will pay the open-access fees of researchers they fund when they publish a paper in a Wiley-Blackwell journal. Like the UK's Wellcome Trust, the Austrian and Italian bodies require articles reporting research they have funded to be freely available online, and their agreement relates to all Wiley- Blackwell journals with an open-access option. The Max Planck Society's accord applies only to the publisher's fully open-access journals. Falk Reckling, strategic analyst at the Austrian Science Fund, said: "Open access should not only be requested but should also be supported in practical ways by funding agencies."

University of Wales Alliance

Glyndwr strikes out on its own

Glyndwr University has broken away from the University of Wales Alliance. Students at the Wrexham institution will now study for degrees fully accredited by Glyndwr, rather than jointly validated by the University of Wales. In July, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales suggested that the university's sustainability was "challenging in the long term" and mooted three options: a merger with the University of Chester, closer integration with nearby colleges or a "regional group structure" with the universities of Aberystwyth and Bangor. Michael Scott, Glyndwr's vice- chancellor, said that it was pulling out of the alliance because the university now had a new structure that allowed it to better monitor the "quality, cost and relevance" of its courses.


Nick Clegg's pronouncement at last week's Liberal Democrat Party conference that he had found breaking his promise on tuition fees "heart-wrenching" provoked comment.

Responding to the anguish expressed by the deputy prime minister, a reader writes: "I feel we could do without Nick Clegg's unseemly parade of self-pity on this issue. It was heartbreaking for a large number of young people, for many who care about higher education and for those who were tricked into voting for his party (but will never do so again)."

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