The Week in Higher Education

July 29, 2010

The current debate over graduate tax has proved the old adage that a week is a long time in politics. Just days after the idea was mooted by Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary, came claims from "a senior Conservative source" that the coalition government had already rejected the idea. Labour's shadow business secretary, Pat McFadden, said on 21 July: "It is completely shambolic for the Lib Dem secretary of state to make a speech advocating one policy one week, then for a Tory briefing to point in a different direction a week later."

An academic has been cleared of harassing his former vice-chancellor, but convicted of a public order offence relating to a meeting between the two. On 22 July, Howard Fredrics, former senior lecturer in music at Kingston University, was acquitted by magistrates of harassing Sir Peter Scott, the institution's vice-chancellor. The charge centred on a website set up by Dr Fredrics,, which he describes as "a satirical whistleblower website". However, Dr Fredrics was found guilty of a lesser offence under the Public Order Act relating to a chance meeting with Sir Peter in Kingston.

David Willetts welcomed private institutions to the higher education "mainstream" on 26 July by announcing that BPP has become the UK's first new private-sector university college for more than 30 years. More private providers would help to tackle the shortage of places, improve the student experience and encourage new models of university study, the universities and science minister claimed. Mr Willetts recently said that he wanted to get away from the "Club Med" model of university study, focused solely on young people studying full-time. In response, the University and College Union said that encouraging the growth of private providers would be a "disaster" for Britain's academic reputation.

A prominent physicist has called on Philip Greenish, the Royal Academy of Engineering's (RAEng) chief executive, to resign from the Science and Technology Facilities Council board. As reported in Times Higher Education, the RAEng has argued that some of the funding that is currently channelled to pure sciences should be redirected to engineering to boost the UK's economic recovery. The STFC is the primary funder of particle physics in the UK. Brian Foster, head of the department of particle physics at the University of Oxford, said that the RAEng submission "denigrates all of STFC's Royal Charter aims". "Someone closely associated with it - which Mr Greenish clearly is - has either to dissociate himself publicly from it or resign from the STFC council," he said on 26 July.

A delegation of UK vice-chancellors is accompanying Prime Minister David Cameron and David Willetts, the universities and science minister, on this week's official visit to India, where a £5 million deal to collaborate on higher education is expected to be signed. It was reported on July that the agreement would see Britain and India collaborate on the establishment of new institutions, quality assurance and skills development. Up to £60 million will also be spent on research into shared challenges including energy and food security.

The Institute of Education, University of London has named its new director. Chris Husbands is currently professor of education and dean of the Faculty of Culture and Pedagogy at the IoE. A former schoolteacher, Professor Husbands holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and obtained his postgraduate certificate in education, history and humanities from the IoE in 1984. He was director of the University of Warwick's Institute of Education from 2000 to 2003, and then head of the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia. Professor Husbands will take over from Geoff Whitty on 1 January 2011, it was announced on 29 July.

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