News in brief

March 22, 2012

University access

Dux for cover? Elite should pay

A government scheme to reward top state school pupils with a visit to a Russell Group institution has been branded as "tokenism" by a university mission group. Million+, which represents post-1992 institutions, has attacked the Dux scheme, which will allow schools to select one Year 9 pupil and one teacher to visit a research-intensive university. Schools will be able to reclaim travel expenses and the costs of supply cover from the Department for Education. Pam Tatlow, chief executive of Million+, said she believed it was wrong to devote extra funds solely to wealthier universities, which had already pledged to do outreach work at their own expense.

Risk assessment

Apocalypse? No

A group of scientists involved in public discussions about nuclear power have written an open letter to the universities and science minister protesting about the European commissioner for energy's "bizarre" talk of an apocalypse in the wake of last year's Fukushima disaster. The letter to Mr Willetts criticises Gunther Oettinger for using the phrase four days after the tsunami that caused the meltdown at the Japanese nuclear plant. "I think the word is particularly well chosen. Practically everything is out of control. I cannot exclude the worst in the hours and days to come," the former head of the German province of Baden-Wurttemberg said. The 10 signatories to the letter, including Jim Al-Khalili, professor of public engagement in science at the University of Surrey, David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor of the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, and Gerry Thomas, chair in molecular pathology at Imperial College London, say that Mr Oettinger's words were "based on interpretation of international press reports and not on any scientific analysis".

Student visas

Coalition carries on regardless

Changes to the government's immigration policy that critics say will limit the number of overseas students applying to study in the UK have been confirmed by the Home Office. The changes - which include the closure of the existing post-study work visa for graduates and limitations on the number who can settle in the UK long term - were laid before Parliament in a written ministerial statement. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said her organisation was "particularly concerned" about the rules' limited provision for post-study employment. "We recognise that unrestricted access to the labour market is not possible in the current economic climate, but the rules risk having a disproportionate impact on particular sectors, regions and professions, and reducing the global talent pool from which employers can recruit," she said.

Fundraising

Oxford exceeds £1.25bn target

A university fundraising campaign has passed its initial target of £1.25 billion. The milestone for the University of Oxford's Oxford Thinking campaign was reached within eight years, with just under £1.3 billion raised so far. Fundraising began in May 2004, although the campaign was formally launched in May 2008, by which time £575 million had been raised. Forty-nine per cent of the total has come from UK sources, with the remainder donated from overseas. Andrew Hamilton, Oxford's vice-chancellor, said that the campaign's success was "testament to the strength of support" for the institution.

ONLINE NOW

Last week's report on the failure of a publicly funded project creating Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning stirred debate. One reader dubbed the £315 million cost of the scheme a "gross underestimate". "If you count the staff time invested in securing them and reporting on them, capital investment by the institutions (a requirement of funding) and the ongoing costs which many institutions have chosen still to bear, plus redundancy costs for those that have not continued, the figure will be nearer £750 million - a gross waste of public money which will sadly pass the public by."

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