News in brief

November 15, 2012

A-level reforms

Once a year is enough, says sector

Students in England will no longer be able to sit A-level exams in January, Ofqual has said. From September 2013, students starting their courses will be able to sit AS and A-level exams only in the summer. The elimination of the opportunity for multiple resits was welcomed by universities in a consultation whose findings were published on 9 November. Chief regulator Glenys Stacey said that the move addressed the concerns of teachers, employers and universities about "resit culture". Proposals for universities to dictate A-level content are being considered and will be announced at a later date. However, they face widespread opposition from within the sector, including from Universities UK, which said that higher education should not have to take responsibility for the exams, as proposed by the education secretary Michael Gove.

Synthetic biology research

Big cash fillip for Big Data

The chancellor, George Osborne, announced £20 million in funding for universities and researchers working on synthetic biology. In a speech to the Royal Society on 9 November, Mr Osborne said that government strategy was not just about cutting the deficit but also "making the structural reforms to make the economy more competitive - and harnessing our scientific ingenuity and translating it into growth and jobs is a core part of that". The areas that Mr Osborne singled out were the "Big Data revolution" and "energy-efficient" computing, synthetic biology and regenerative medicine. He said that the £20 million in Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council funding would go to "leading universities and researchers ... to use synthetic biology to benefit the UK economy by addressing major global challenges, such as producing low-carbon fuel and reducing the cost of industrial raw materials".

Capital research infrastructure

New framework to pin hopes on

Mr Osborne also unveiled Research Councils UK's "strategic framework" for future investment in the UK's capital infrastructure for research, titled Investing for Growth: Capital Infrastructure for the 21st Century. Rick Rylance, chair of RCUK, said: "Economic pressures have led to a reduction in capital funding for research and, critically, the removal of this funding from the science budget's ring-fence. However, the need for investment in capital and infrastructure projects has not diminished; in fact, it is more crucial than ever." RCUK said that the framework would "develop an underpinning national infrastructure which supports the UK's capability for excellent research and technology development" and "guide capital investment to meet the highest priority challenges and opportunities of tomorrow".

Times Higher Education Awards 2012

'Little Britain' star set to shine

Comedian David Walliams has been confirmed as host of the 2012 Times Higher Education Awards, which will take place in London later this month. Now in their eighth year, the awards celebrate the best in UK higher education, and range from the coveted title University of the Year to Most Innovative Teacher of the Year. Mr Walliams, a University of Bristol drama graduate, is expected to make a suitably inspirational host for the ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Thursday 29 November. The last few tickets are available to buy from the THE website.

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News of the University of Gloucestershire's plans to partner with private firm INTO elicited varying reactions from readers. Kevin Walter said that the university council's approval of the plan meant "we will have to make sure it works for the benefit of our students", adding that media coverage was "putting the future of the university and staff at risk". "Delphinius" was more sceptical about "the INTO 'partnership' (takeover?)", saying: "I assume those posters who are so keen to see INTO move into the university are either members of the team driving the merger; or smugly feel that it is only 'others' that may be forced on to inferior contracts."

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