News in brief

October 25, 2012

Business, Innovation and Skills

Disquiet in the departmental ranks

Less than a third of civil servants working in the government department responsible for higher education agree that the department is well managed. The National Audit Office last week published a summary of its 2011-12 work on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This included findings from the 2011 Civil Service People Survey. Just 31 per cent of civil servants in BIS agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "I feel that the department as a whole is well managed", down 7 percentage points from 2010 and 10 percentage points below the average across all government departments. Only 29 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "I believe that the management board has a clear vision for the future of the department", 10 percentage points below the Civil Service average.

Digital learning

Security firm finds security threats

Institutions' encouragement of the growing use by students of smartphones and computers in lectures may pose "the biggest threat to web security this decade", it has been claimed. Research by the internet protection company Smoothwall found that more than a fifth of UK educational establishments have already implemented a "bring your own device" (BYOD) policy, with this number due to grow because of the ease-of-use advantages offered by students using their own technology. Although such a policy is aimed at making students more productive, it can place universities at major risk of cyber-threats because millions of devices contain spyware, adware, viruses and other malicious software that can spread to other computers. Ian Parrett, Smoothwall's director of communications, said: "For many network managers the growing popularity of smartphones, tablets and other portable devices is causing a major headache."

Intellectual property

Students: accentuate the positive

Universities need to change the way they teach students about intellectual property, a survey by the National Union of Students has found. Most further and higher education students said they believed that the way they were taught about IP did not equip them for future careers. Many respondents said they also felt that institutions focused too much on the negative aspects of plagiarism rather than the benefits of IP rights such as patents, trademarks and registered designs. Published on 17 October, the survey was done in partnership with the Intellectual Property Awareness Network and the Intellectual Property Office.

Sector networking

THE unveils LinkedIn group

Times Higher Education has launched a networking group on LinkedIn, the professional social networking website. The group offers a platform for anyone with an interest in higher education to discuss current issues, interact with peers across the world and make connections with like-minded individuals. Members may actively participate in higher education debate or simply listen in to what others are saying. LinkedIn is a free-to-join social network, and membership of the THE group is also free of charge. To participate, register with, search "Groups" for Times Higher Education, and click to join.


Online readers responded to our story about concerns that supposed flaws in widening-participation Polar (Participation of Local Areas) data may be masking the deterrent effect of higher fees on poorer students. A Useless Bod said: "It is important to acknowledge that statistical evidence (like all evidence) rests on presuppositions which may be flawed, and that will not give the full picture." But Mike Hughes said: "The only data we have on that, other than anecdotal evidence from interested parties, is the Polar data. Perhaps this data is slightly biased in one direction or the other, but as long as this bias hasn't changed with the introduction of higher fees, then it still serves as a broad, relative measure [of] changing patterns of participation."

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