News in brief

November 8, 2012

Economic growth

Tarzan's curriculum call

Lord Heseltine of Thenford has called for universities to work more closely with industry councils in developing courses. As part of No Stone Unturned: in Pursuit of Growth, a report for the chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, the former Conservative Cabinet minister says employers should also contribute to students' fees if students commit to working for them post-graduation. The suggestions are part of 89 recommendations intended to boost the UK economy. In the report, published on 31 October, Lord Heseltine also calls for a greater focus on the economic potential of the regions, with local enterprise partnerships competing for a dedicated pot of money to support growth from 2015-16.

Student entrepreneurship

Enter the dragons' den

Student unions have been invited to submit ideas for social enterprises in a Dragons' Den-style competition. The National Union of Students is asking members to bid for a portion of £100,000 in seed funding for viable businesses on campus. Previous funded projects have included bicycle recycling, in-house printing and learner-engagement schemes. Entries must be submitted by 17 December, with shortlisted applicants pitching their ideas to a panel of business experts in March 2013. Raechel Mattey, chair of NUS Services, said: "Students' unions are full of exciting ideas that, with the right support, could become vibrant, socially responsible businesses that create employment opportunities. The project has been so successful in the past few years that we have expanded and redeveloped it to try and reach even more student entrepreneurs."


Watchdog sniffs out support

Ideas about how to support university students are being sought by the Quality Assurance Agency. The standards regulator has launched a consultation on how higher education providers can help students to complete their studies successfully and find graduate jobs. It also wants to hear how universities have adapted their support packages to help different groups, such as gay students. Janet Bohrer, the QAA's assistant director for research, development and partnerships, said: "Good support systems recognise that not every student is the same and should allow students to access tailored assistance, however they study." The QAA hopes to compile a single reference point for good practice to ensure that institutions can learn from each other. The consultation closes on 3 January.

Research investment

Seven scientific successes

Seven partnerships have been announced as winners of the second round of the Research Partnership Investment Fund. The projects bring the total number of collaborations funded to 14, 10 of which involve Russell Group universities. The latest winners include a £38 million partnership between the University of Manchester, specialist hospital The Christie and Cancer Research UK to build the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, and a £34 million project involving the University of Nottingham, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and other investors to build the Centre for Sustainable Chemistry. Outside the Russell Group, Brunel University has secured funds to build the National Research Centre for Structural Integrity as part of a £60 million partnership with companies including the technology engineering firm TWI.


A survey suggesting that fewer than half of academic staff have doctorates provoked a heated reaction. "Jerry Ezeabugu" was incensed. "Why is it that many PhD graduates are languishing in search of academic jobs?" he asked. "Academic recruiters owe it as a duty to recruit without delay [such] people." "Frederik" was less concerned. "Do high-ranking politicians have a higher level of education than their lower-ranking colleagues? Who cares? The important thing is whether academics are qualified to do research and teach."

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