News in brief

March 8, 2012

Government departments

'Keep universities under BIS'

The author of a major review into the future of collaborations between universities and business has suggested that higher education should stay in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills rather than be sucked into a larger Department for Education. Speaking at the University Alliance's Open Doors: Universities Open for Business? event in London on 1 March, Sir Tim Wilson, former vice-chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, said universities "should be at the very heart of our economy, and that requires joined-up economic and higher education policy; something that BIS is achieving". His comments follow speculation that Michael Gove, the education secretary, wants to bring the academy under his remit.

Access agreements

Students not consulted, says NUS

Two-thirds of universities have failed to adequately consult students on their access agreements, the National Union of Students has claimed. Based on a survey of students' unions, the NUS says 67 per cent of universities did not listen enough to student representatives when drawing up financial support plans for undergraduates. The findings come despite guidance published by the Office for Fair Access in March 2011, which recommended that universities consult with students' unions when creating access agreements, which are mandatory for institutions charging fees of more than £6,000. Liam Burns, NUS president, said: "Universities are spending students' fees on access measures, and we should have our opinions not only heard but properly listened and responded to."

Staffing levels

Rise of the managers

The percentage increase in the number of managers in higher education in recent years is more than twice that for academics, an analysis of figures has suggested. Higher Education Statistics Agency data examined by the University and College Union suggest that there were 15,795 managers in higher education in December 2010 - up by almost 40 per cent on the 11,305 employed in the 2003-04 academic year. This compares with a 19.2 per cent increase in the number of academics since 2003-04. It means there is now about one manager for every nine academics compared with a ratio of one to 11 seven years earlier, according to the UCU. Statistics released by Hesa on 1 March also showed that staffing levels fell 1.5 per cent last year. There were 381,790 people working at UK higher education institutions in 2010-11, down 5,640 from 2009-10.

Migrant workers' pay threshold

Reprieve for doctoral employees

PhD-level jobs have been exempted from a new pay threshold for skilled migrants who want to settle in the UK. The announcement by Theresa May, the home secretary, was welcomed by Universities UK, which has repeatedly warned the government about restrictions that could deter overseas students from coming to the country. The £35,000 minimum earnings requirement will apply to migrants wanting to remain permanently after working for more than five years in the UK. Home Office ministers are seeking to implement a Conservative manifesto pledge to reduce net migration into the UK to the "tens of thousands" by 2015. This will mean a tightening of migration rules for those from outside the European Union.

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