News in brief

August 23, 2012

Healthcare studies

HEA's prescription for learning

The Higher Education Academy has announced plans to work with the Council of Deans of Health on a year-long project to improve education for health professionals such as midwives and nurses. Funding from the HEA and the council, which represents UK university health faculties, will support a dedicated policy officer to work with the 85 higher education institutions that provide courses for health professionals. Starting in September, the participating organisations will host workshops and establish a network for educators to share innovative teaching and learning practices. Outcomes will be considered at a conference in June 2013.

Science funding

LibDems mull over a 3% solution

Liberal Democrats will vote on a motion to increase the science budget by 3 per cent above inflation annually for 15 years at their party conference next month. The motion, which was put forward by Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and a former research scientist, also urges the government to ring-fence capital spending alongside grant funding and for immigration laws to be revised to ensure that the best international students and academics can come to the UK to study, work and settle. The motion also calls for the coalition government to establish an income-contingent loan scheme for postgraduate students so they are not obliged to pay for their courses up front.

Immigration policy

We'll be here for you, UKBA says

The Home Office has announced it will pilot a scheme that gives universities access to a range of immigration services. It said that after receiving feedback from the sector on the issue, the UK Border Agency will now provide a "dedicated point of contact" for institutions. Universities will also have the opportunity to attend training events on how to comply with immigration rules and ways to maintain highly trusted sponsor status, which allows them to bring in students from outside the European Union. The UKBA will also enable institutions to check quickly whether students are eligible to come to the UK, and give them a monthly report on how many take up a particular university's visa sponsorship. Damian Green, minister for immigration, said: "We have listened to feedback from the sector and acted, which is why we are bringing forward these improvements. At the same time we are committed to radically reforming the student visa system to weed out abuse and protect the UK from those looking to play the system." However, colleges in the private higher education sector criticised the new pilot for being on offer only to universities.

Student loans

Save the date to help them save

Universities are being urged to play their part in ensuring prospective students have all the information they need about the new loans system, by supporting the second national Student Finance Day on 20 September 2012. The event is being organised by the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information, led by personal finance journalist Martin Lewis. Universities are being urged to get involved in a number of ways - from rebranding existing events to staging information sessions and using social media channels to communicate the facts about the student finance system. Further information about the Student Finance Day, including resources for those wishing to take part, can be found at


Some online readers reacted scornfully to Universities UK's attempt to reassure prospective students over clearing. Don Quixote said he was glad UUK had issued such "concise, precise and decisive advice". He added: "Universities are used to the goalposts being moved, are quite adaptable and will react in some unspecifiable way...Students should not worry their little heads about all this; don't panic, just wear these blinkers. We don't actually know what will happen, but rest assured, we are monitoring it. Well, that's all fine then, isn't it?"

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