News in brief

May 17, 2012

Capital funding

Westminster matchmakers

Universities will be able to bid for up to £35 million in matched public funding for major research capital projects as part of a new programme, the government has announced. The £100 million Research Partnership Investment Fund, announced by Chancellor George Osborne in this year's Budget, opened for expressions of interest on 14 May. The funding, to be administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, will be available to universities that are able to at least double the sum they receive through donations. Ministers hope that the co-investment, which the government will fund to the tune of at least £10 million per project, will spark "long-term research partnerships" between bidders and donors.

International aid

A welcome sight

International development charity Sightsavers has announced a £1 million funding pot open to universities and research organisations to help overcome eye health and social-inclusion challenges in developing countries. The Sightsavers Innovation Fund is offering cash for innovative approaches. Winning initiatives will receive up to £75,000 each to implement the suggested proposal over 18 months. The fund is part of a three-year programme partnership arrangement that Sightsavers holds with the UK's Department for International Development. Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, said the fund "will provide a genuine opportunity for charities, the private sector and academic institutions to work together to solve key health and disability challenges".

www.sightsavers.org/innovationfund

University rankings

Tenth-rate academy?

The UK has been placed 10th in a ranking of the world's best higher education systems, with the US topping the list. Researchers from the University of Melbourne applied 20 measures to data collected from 48 countries and territories to construct the ranking for Universitas 21, an international network of research-intensive institutions. The ranking aims to show which countries create a "strong environment" that allows universities to contribute to growth, provide a high-quality student experience and compete globally. The overall top 10 are, in order: the US, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, the Netherlands and the UK. Measures used to compile the ranking were grouped into four areas: public and private investment; research and workforce output; international connectivity; and environment. Population size was also taken into account.

Student support

Let's talk it through, it helps

Almost 60 per cent of graduates who received counselling at university say it played a vital role in supporting their academic work, a poll has found. Research carried out by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) found that 58.3 per cent of graduates who had used counselling listed it as an "important factor" or the "most significant factor" in helping them to complete their studies. The professional body quizzed more than 1,200 people who had used pastoral support at 42 universities and further education colleges. The research, The Impact of Counselling on Academic Outcomes in Further and Higher Education: The Student Perspective, was presented to the 18th annual BACP Research Conference, held in Edinburgh on 11 May.

ONLINE NOW

Last week's coverage of vice-chancellors' pay prompted fierce debate, especially two contrasting opinion pieces by Fred Inglis, honorary professor of cultural history at the University of Warwick, and Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK. For one reader, the debate was proof that v-c pay "has nothing to do with ability, but everything to do with the incomes of your peer group. Some v-cs are pretty good, most not bad, some really dreadful; in no case does their pay reflect their performance."

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