News in brief

February 23, 2012

Private facilities partnerships

UPP seals £57m contract

A private company that specialises in long-term multi-million-pound deals to build and run student facilities has extended its reach in the sector through a £57.2 million contract with Nottingham Trent University. The deal with University Partnerships Programme - which has been partly backed by a £46 million loan from Royal Bank of Scotland - will create new sports and social provision for the institution, including a gym, music venue, retail space and health centre. The facility will also provide bespoke accommodation for the university's students union in addition to more than 900 new rooms. It is the latest move by UPP, which has to date invested a total of £1.4 billion in the sector in return for long-term contracts that can guarantee the company a decades-long stream of rental income.

US funding

Obama smiles on education

The US Department of Education has emerged as one of the winners in Barack Obama's 2013 budget request, winning a 2.5 per cent rise in funding and promises of support for community colleges. In a speech at Northern Virginia Community College, Mr Obama pledged $8 billion (£5 billion) for community colleges to develop and implement job training programmes over the next three years. The budget has also promised more student financial aid offered by the federal government. This includes Pell Grants, given to the poorest students, which are to be set at a maximum of $5,635 for the 2014-15 academic year. This represents an $85 rise on the previous year. Mr Obama has also announced the postponement (for a year only) of an increase in the interest rate for federally subsidised student loans, which was originally scheduled to take effect in June.

Tribunal hearing

Damages for dismissed scientist

A scientist who was team leader on a project to build the world's largest radio telescope has been awarded £30,000 in damages after being subjected to a "barrage of yelling" by a professor. As Times Higher Education reported last month, a tribunal had previously found that Andrew Faulkner was unfairly dismissed from his job at the University of Manchester, where he was a project engineer and team leader on the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope. He was shouted at by Mohamed Missous during a heated meeting about research into the £1.3 billion project at Jodrell Bank observatory in Cheshire. Professor Missous was said to have acted like "a mother bear protecting her cubs" after Dr Faulkner was accused of dismissing his work on the design.

Freedom of Information

UUK fails to win exemption

Universities UK has failed in an attempt to have an exemption for pre-publication research data inserted into the Freedom of Information Act. During a House of Lords debate on 15 February about the Protection of Freedoms bill, Lord Henley, the minister for crime prevention and antisocial behaviour reduction, said that "adequate protection already exists" in the current Act. UUK is also calling on the Commons Justice Committee, which is examining the impact of the Act, to grant the new exemption. UUK is concerned that Freedom of Information requests could be used to "scoop" data from researchers before they have a chance to publish.

ONLINE NOW

"Oddly parochial" was the verdict of one online reader on a UK academic's criticism of the poor research records of US for-profit universities. Andrew McGowan wrote: "In the UK, and in Australia, the research university that regards students as a nuisance seems more of a real risk in the future than the teaching-only institution.

"The 'university' title won't save venerable institutions that have lost sight of a teaching mission, as students become more savvy about their choices."

He added: "Giving or taking the name 'university' is beside the point...The point is how we work both sides of the teaching-research nexus to strengthen institutions and provide students with great educations."

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