News in brief

February 9, 2012

Research misconduct

Bulfone-Paus report under wraps

Germany's University of Lubeck has declined to release a long-awaited report into allegations of research misconduct against two of its professors, who are also affiliated with the University of Manchester. Last year Lubeck asked its independent research ethics committee to examine allegations against Silvia Bulfone-Paus and her husband, Ralf Paus, who spend 20 per cent of their time at Manchester, where they also hold professorships. In a statement last week, Lubeck said it had received the committee's report, but the law in the Schleswig-Holstein region entitled the accused to full confidentiality and the right to dispute the report's conclusions. The professors, who both protest their innocence, intend to exercise that right, and thus no details of the report can yet be released. Professor Bulfone-Paus was sanctioned in 2010 by Germany's Research Centre Borstel, where she also holds a position, after it concluded that research misconduct had occurred in her lab. Last summer Manchester called allegations against the couple "unfounded and malicious".

Postgraduate education

Blue-chip panel probes provision

An independent inquiry into postgraduate education has been launched. The Higher Education Commission inquiry will consider the role of postgraduate provision in maintaining the UK's strengths in highly skilled industries and will investigate models for postgraduate funding, which was largely overlooked by last year's higher education White Paper. Commission members include: Lord Broers, former vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge; Sir Deian Hopkin, former vice-chancellor of London South Bank University; Lord Norton of Louth, chairman of the Parliamentary University Group; and senior parliamentarians from all three main political parties. The inquiry's chairman, Graham Spittle, chief technology officer at IBM, said it will focus on "the vital role that postgraduate education can play" in challenges to the UK economy in the future. It will gather evidence for six months and report its findings in the summer.

University leadership

Essex looks north for leadership

The University of Essex has appointed a senior manager at Durham University as its new vice-chancellor. Anthony Forster, a former military officer who is currently deputy vice-chancellor of Durham, will take over the role from Colin Riordan later this year. Professor Riordan is leaving Essex to become vice-chancellor of Cardiff University.

Widening participation

Summer school for science stars

Applications have opened for a summer school programme for gifted young scientists. The in2ScienceUK scheme enables sixth-form students from underprivileged backgrounds to spend two weeks working alongside scientists at University College London, King's College London and Imperial College London. The project was founded by Rebecca McKelvey, a former science teacher who is now a PhD student in neuroscience at UCL. "The challenge of higher fees and the fierce competition that favours applicants from more privileged backgrounds is threatening to reverse many of the advances made in widening participation, particularly in the sciences," she said. To date, 37 students have benefited from the scheme, with all the 2010 cohort securing places at Russell Group universities. The closing date for applications is 6 April.


Last week's report on calls for more thorough academic support for first-year students provoked debate. A reader writes: "We should be doing this. But it's just not practical at the scale some modules are now, even if one were to replace some of the formal teaching time to support such activity. I used to teach a module with 450 students: I did not have any sort of teaching assistance, and could not provide the sort of one-to-one guidance being called for, much as I would like to and although I know the students would benefit."

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