News in brief

January 5, 2012

Student accommodation

Private room service

A university has transferred the management of its entire student accommodation to a private company under a 125-year agreement. The £230 million deal will see the University Partnerships Programme (UPP) manage more than 4,000 rooms at the University of Reading. This will include 2,610 owned and managed by Reading, a further 898 currently being built by the university, 816 rooms that UPP already manages and a further 649 that the company will build on the site of the current Bridges Hall. The agreement makes Reading the first university to sign a long-term deal with a private investor for all its campus accommodation. Tony Downes, acting vice-chancellor of Reading, said it would allow the university to invest more in research and teaching facilities.

Jail sentence

Justice for Indian murder victim

A court in Australia has sentenced a teenager to 13 years in jail for murdering an Indian student, part of a spate of violence blamed for damaging the country's overseas student market. The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted the murder and attempted robbery of 21-year-old Nitin Garg in January 2010. The killing was part of a series of attacks on foreign students, mostly from India, in 2009 and early 2010. The violence was widely reported in India and was blamed in part for a downturn in the number of overseas students choosing to study in Australia. A report published last month by the International Education Association of Australia found that the income generated by education exports fell by 15 per cent in the 2010-11 financial year.

Private provision

BIS wants full list of alternatives

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has invited expressions of interest for a research project giving a "comprehensive picture of HE provision by private and alternative suppliers". In its call, which closed on 4 January, BIS refers to figures showing that US private providers have a disproportionate number of low-income students and "higher default rates". BIS says that the UK research should provide an "authoritative list of existing private HE providers", plus data on tuition fee levels, student numbers and social class, graduate salaries, along with "a good understanding of the student experience in private HE". Invitations to tender are scheduled to be issued in the week starting 9 January.

Bologna Process

Students reject Belarus overture

Belarus should not be allowed to join the Bologna Process because it continues to violate academic freedom, the European Students' Union has said. The warning follows an application by the former Soviet republic on 30 November to join the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), which establishes greater transferability of qualifications and cooperation between universities. But Allan Pall, chairman of the ESU, said the continuing repression of academics and students in Belarus was incompatible with the commitment to intellectual freedom laid out in the 1999 Bologna Declaration. "In December [2010], 600 Belarusian activists, mainly young people and students, were arrested and put on trial while 20 students were expelled from their university following protests against the election of the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko," Mr Pall said. A decision on Belarus' membership will be made at a meeting of EHEA higher education ministers in Romania in April.

ONLINE NOW

Responding to news that the University and College Union is considering how to boycott the research excellence framework, one online reader said: "People who are serious about research have no problems with the REF. As that includes all the Russell Group universities and other serious universities...it follows that the idea of boycotting the REF is a non-starter. So why is the UCU wasting time, energy and money on it?" In response, "audit everywhere" called this view of the REF "the funniest, most absurd, and indeed falsest statement...to appear on a Times Higher board".

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