News in brief

April 5, 2012

Private provision

Show us the alternative

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has chosen a partner to provide "a comprehensive picture of HE provision by private and alternative suppliers". BIS has awarded the contract for the project to Leicester-based research and consultancy firm CFE. Just before Christmas, when the invitation for expressions of interest in the contract was issued, BIS said that the project would need to collect information on private providers' range of courses, fee levels and research; details of student numbers by domicile, level of study and course; and demographic information on students, including their social class. It is expected that the research will be used to help shape policy on private provision, which was to feature in the delayed higher education bill.

Medical research

Next regeneration

A road map aimed at boosting the translation of basic regenerative medical research into "clinical impacts" has been unveiled. The strategy, developed by the Medical Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board, includes a £25 million cross-council funding stream called the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform. It will focus on the early stages of translation and will complement the Technology Strategy Board's £50 million "Catapult" centre in cell therapy, which will focus on the later stages of product development. The funders hope to "ensure full connectivity between the science base and those seeking to apply (research) for clinical and commercial impact".

Welsh funding allocations

This is how you repay us?

Michael Scott, the vice-chancellor of Glyndwr University, has claimed that the institution has been "disadvantaged" for "following government policy" after funding allocations for Welsh universities predicted that it will suffer a 20.3 per cent drop in income in 2012-13. The Wrexham institution has set its average tuition fees at £6,643, whereas all other Welsh universities have set them above £8,500. As a result, Glyndwr will be unable to compensate for deep cuts in core funding. From 2012-13, Welsh universities will charge fees as in England, but the Cardiff government will pay costs above £3,465 a year for students domiciled in Wales. Total state funding to Welsh institutions will be cut by 36.6 per cent, but the difference will be made up by higher fees - except for Glyndwr, which will receive far less. When expected fees are taken into account, the overall funding for the Welsh sector will rise by 1.6 per cent between 2011-12 and 2012-13 to £339.1 million.

Social media

#UKfail as US dominates

The UK's top universities are losing out to their US counterparts on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, which are increasingly vital to student recruitment, research claims. The study, by consultancy firm Sociagility, compared the social media "scores" of the top 25 US and UK universities in the 2011-12 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Collectively, the UK institutions performed only just over half as well as their US counterparts. Only the universities of Oxford and Sheffield made it into the top 10 of a transatlantic group based on the scores. Harvard University led the pack.


The first concrete evidence of how the government's brave new funding world will look in 2012-13 came in the form of the English funding council's grant allocations to universities last week. For one reader, the "very obvious effect" of the new regime "has been on applications from older students, who are often (in my experience) the most successful and benefit the most from a university education. So far the policy has removed high-performing older students from the applications cycle, and their places will be taken up by less well qualified 18-year-olds."

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