News in brief

June 28, 2012


Overseas underwriting

The UK's universities and science minister has appealed to private investors to support British universities' overseas expansion while suggesting that the investment bank Goldman Sachs could help with sourcing funding for branch campuses and distance-learning operations. David Willetts made the appeal during a speech on international higher education delivered on 20 June at the Goldman Sachs-Stanford University Global Education Conference, held at Stanford. He said: "Our universities are well financed for what they do, but under-financed for big expansion. I want to see investors from Britain and abroad helping our universities access these big overseas markets. I know that companies [such as] Goldman Sachs...are keen to investigate this possibility."

Graduate employment

Qualified interest

A database has been launched that will allow employers to check easily the veracity of applicants' CVs. The Higher Education Degree Datacheck will charge employers £10 to make each enquiry. The system is managed by Graduate Prospects, the commercial subsidiary of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, an agency of Guild HE and Universities UK. Mike Hill, chief executive of Graduate Prospects, said that through trials of the system, "we know that people are exaggerating their qualifications, but we are yet to identify what proportion is down to error and what is deliberately deceitful". It is hoped that the database, which was initially funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, will save some of the £2 million universities are estimated to spend each year on verifying degrees.

Research councils

Stay (just a little bit longer)

Douglas Kell has been reappointed chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council for an extra year. Professor Kell's term had been scheduled to finish later this year, but the biochemist will now remain in post until the end of September 2013. Professor Kell joined the council in 2008 from the Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology, where he was director and still works one day a week. Tom Blundell, the BBSRC's chairman, said that under Professor Kell's leadership, research priorities had been focused to maximise the social and economic benefits of the research council's investment, the UK's bioscience capability had continued to grow and new beneficial alliances had been forged.

Libel reform

David, time to beef up the bill

This week, campaigners were set to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street in a "final push" to make amendments to the defamation bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament. The bill seeks to update England's libel laws and includes provisions to protect academics, but pressure group the Libel Reform Campaign has said that the legislation does not go far enough. The group, which includes organisations such as Sense About Science and Index on Censorship, wants to see improvements to the public interest defence laid out in the bill, plus restrictions on corporations' ability to silence critics. Science writer Simon Singh and Brian Cox, professor of physics at the University of Manchester, were among those scheduled to present the petition on June.


Online readers responded to our report about the Times Higher Education-The New York Review of Books debate on the New College of the Humanities, in which its founder Anthony Grayling answered his critics. "Jim" described the college as "a tiny irrelevance", adding: "If you want to cough [up] £18K a year it's your business. If we 'banned' it here, these sort of people would go elsewhere. The bigger, more depressing concern is that so many Establishment figures work on two assumptions: (1) Oxbridge is not as good as it was; (2) The rest of the sector is too awful for words."

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