News in brief

September 13, 2012

Digital humanities

No-holds Bard

A large-scale digital resource whose first tranche covers the writings of "Shakespeare and his immediate contemporaries, antecedents and successors" has been launched by Oxford University Press. To create Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, the publisher has raided its catalogue, including volumes dating back to 1901, and digitised virtually all its texts and scholarly editions of 62 authors active between 1485 and 1660. The data-capture process also means that hard copies of some older out-of-print volumes can be made available again via on-demand printing. Project director Sophie Goldsworthy said the press "has a long tradition of publishing scholarly editions...and a range and reach unmatched by any other publisher".

Tuition-fee rises

Label still trumps sticker price

Introducing tuition fees of up to £9,000 will not change the hierarchy of UK universities because applicants generally pick an institution based on its prestige and history, a study suggests. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh say a university's perceived status remains the overriding factor in student choice after analysing applicant and entry patterns between 1996 and 2010. David Raffe and Linda Croxford of Edinburgh's Centre for Educational Sociology wanted to find out if efforts to encourage market-based competition from 1998 - via the introduction of fees - had affected student choice. Advocates of fees claimed the fees would establish competition for older, more established institutions. But the researchers found that students continued to prioritise older universities that traditionally have had greater prestige, especially those in the Russell Group.

STEM education

Birmingham centre takes root

A university is to establish an education centre focused on improving access to and participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects as a direct legacy of a national programme based at the institution. The STEM Education Centre at the University of Birmingham will build on the work of the National HE STEM programme, which it has hosted since 2009, and work with other STEM initiatives and organisations. Within the university, the centre will focus on student recruitment and widening participation. Director Michael Grove said that the centre would provide a "sustainable legacy" for the national programme's achievements.

Research misconduct

Postdoc regrets 'manipulations'

A postdoctoral researcher at University College London has resigned amid a misconduct investigation. The Retraction Watch website reported last week that Assegid Garedew left the laboratory of cardiologist Salvador Moncada earlier this summer. The news follows the third retraction in recent months of research papers featuring Dr Garedew as first author. All three retraction notices admit to inaccurate figures and say that Dr Garedew regrets the "inappropriate...manipulations", of which his co-authors were "completely unaware". Professor Moncada told Retraction Watch that UCL's investigation had confirmed that Dr Garedew was solely responsible for problems with the papers.


Speculation that London Metropolitan University could be taken over by a private provider if it becomes insolvent following the revocation of its visa licence had readers' chins wagging. ChrisCross called the privatisation or fragmentation of the university the year's "biggest know[n] scenario secret...Now the legal explosives are in place and the blue touchpaper is smouldering." He added that such an outcome would be a "wake-up call" for the whole sector.

As for David Willetts, the universities and science minister, reportedly being willing to explore the idea of allowing a "failing" university to be taken over by a private buyer, reader Charles Wayman asked: "Willing to explore? Do you honestly think he doesn't already have a plan in place?"

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