News in brief

July 12, 2012

Widening access

Cornish lead in county funding

Students in Cornwall could receive up to £3,000 each from their local council in a scheme that represents a first for a local authority under current funding arrangements. Cornwall Council has announced plans to commit up to £3 million a year to help students with the cost of living while at university. Undergraduates from families earning less than £42,600 a year and attending a Sutton Trust 30 institution (the 30 most highly selective universities, as identified by the educational charity) will be eligible for funding of up to £3,000 over three years. From 2014-15, every Cornish student, regardless of family income, will receive a pre-paid card worth £30 that can be used to pay for goods and services related to university life, such as textbooks. The county's scheme is expected to help 4,000 students in its first year.

Funding council

Hefce banks on statistician

A Bank of England economist has replaced a university vice-chancellor on the Higher Education Funding Council for England's board. The appointment of Mark Robson, head of the Bank of England's statistics division, was announced by Vince Cable, the business secretary. He takes the place of Paul Wellings, the former vice-chancellor of Lancaster University who left in December 2011 prior to taking up the post of vice-chancellor of the University of Wollongong in Australia. Mr Robson became a governor of London Metropolitan University in April 2010, and is currently the vice-chair of the university's board and chair of the finance and resources committee. Membership of the Hefce board carries with it an honorarium of £5,000 a year.

Medical Research Council

Top post for Royal Mail man

The government has nominated Donald Brydon as the next chairman of the Medical Research Council. Mr Brydon, chairman of the Royal Mail Group and the technology company Smiths Group, is set to replace Sir John Chisholm when he steps down at the end of September. The government will make a formal appointment after Mr Brydon has been questioned by MPs in a House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee pre-appointment hearing due to take place on 11 July. Mr Brydon had a 20-year career with Barclays Group as well as chairmanships at the London Metal Exchange, the ifs School of Finance and Scottish Power.

Graduate destinations

Post-1992s beat older rivals

Some post-1992 universities have outperformed older institutions in the latest set of statistics on graduate destinations. Data released on 5 July by the Higher Education Statistics Agency indicate that in 2011-12, 90.3 per cent of graduates of full-time first degree study were in employment or further study six months after leaving university, down from the pre-recession level of 93.8 per cent in 2006-07. Among the highest-performing institutions was the Arts University College at Bournemouth, with almost 98 per cent of graduates in work or further study, according to Hesa data. Other modern universities performing well included Robert Gordon University (97.1 per cent) and the universities of Northampton (96.6 per cent) and Huddersfield (93.5 per cent).


Last week's story revealing that UK universities spent almost £60 million on commission for overseas student agents in 2010-11 caused a flurry of comments. Some expressed shock, but others were unperturbed. "What a non story! It's called 'service provision'," writes one reader. "Educational agents are to overseas universities what travel agents are to tour operators. They match the client to the package which suits them best for quality, location and price. They do this in the customer's own tongue and in their own high street, and they cut out painful bureaucracy (such as assisting in complicated visa processes and in remitting deposits). For this they receive a modest commission. Shock! Horror!"

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