News in brief

November 10, 2011

Scholarship awards

Manchester seeks elite for PhDs

The University of Manchester is to offer more than 100 "elite" PhD scholarships a year over the next four years. The President's Doctoral Scholar Award will cover recipients' tuition fees and pay a stipend of £14,590, which is £1,000 above the current minimum research council level. It will be available in all disciplines and to all nationalities from October 2012. Dame Nancy Rothwell, Manchester's president and vice-chancellor, said the university's £2.5 million investment would help it "retain and attract the very brightest PhD students in the face of increasingly fierce competition from the USA, China and India".

http://tinyurl.com/6f2vxlk

Strategy plan

Hefce gets down to business

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has explained its key objectives and priorities for the next four years in a new business plan. Hefce Business Plan 2011-2015: Principles, Priorities and Practices sets out how the body will approach the government's reforms in each area of its work. It also highlights some of the potential challenges it faces, including the need to make sure it has "sufficient resources" in an environment where it expects its internal budget to be cut by 16 per cent in real terms by 2015.

Environmental index

LiFE support system

A system designed to help universities and colleges improve their social responsibility and sustainability while making savings of up to 10 per cent in their budgets has been launched. The Learning in Future Environments (LiFE) Index gives institutions an "instinctive and easy to use" system to measure and manage their performance in the above areas and learn from one another through best practice. It has been developed by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges with the support of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council and the Department for Employment and Learning (Northern Ireland).

Grant applications

ESRC sanctions find favour

The Economic and Social Research Council will introduce sanctions on serially unsuccessful grant applicants if current efforts to manage demand are not adequate. Of the 74 respondents to the research council's consultation on demand management carried out earlier this year, 68 per cent approved of individual sanctions. This compares with just 12 per cent who favoured institutional quotas, 9 per cent who advocated sanctions on unsuccessful institutions and 3 per cent who favoured charging for submission.

http://tinyurl.com/6aghmrt

Academic publishing

All in the name

The title and editorial team for a new "top-tier" open-access research journal have been announced. eLife will be launched next year with the support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust. The editor-ial team aims to "operate entirely independently...and will ensure fair, swift and high-quality editorial decisions". Editor-in-chief Randy Schekman and managing executive editor Mark Patterson will be joined by two deputy editors: Fiona Watt, currently at the University of Cambridge but shortly to join King's College London, and Detlef Weigel of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Germany.

Online now

Last week we reported on the sector's rejection of proposals for compulsory discipline-based teaching qualifications for all new academics. A reader writes: "The staff most opposed to learning how to teach more effectively are those most in need of help...the same staff who moan about how stupid students are rather than shouldering any blame for their poor grades and reflecting on how they might teach more effectively. Why should students accept being taught by stuck-in-the-mud reactionaries who hate teaching or, worse, don't give their teaching practice any thought?"

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