Today's news

November 10, 2006

Oxford outlines funding reforms
Oxford University is considering a major overhaul of its internal funding methods, which would see departments and colleges "earn" money in proportion to their contribution to teaching and research. A working group has been meeting since the beginning of last year to develop the system, known as the joint resource allocation method, and the university has begun holding open meetings for university staff and students.
The Guardian

RAE changes threaten research reputation, warn VCs
Universities have warned that the Government's plans to overhaul the way research funding is distributed could jeopardise Britain's academic reputation. In a submission paper on the future of the research assessment exercise, Universities UK, the umbrella group representing vice-chancellors, has backed the Government's plans to change the labour-intensive regime after 2008. It worries, however, that the Government's preferred option - based entirely on research income and excluding peer review - is "unlikely to be fit for purpose". The group warned: "If Britain's strong research record is not to be jeopardised, time needs to be taken to ensure that a robust successor to the RAE, which has the support of the academic community, is developed."
The Guardian

Change to degree grades rejected
University leaders have rejected plans to abolish the existing system of degree classifications despite a major inquiry concluding it is "not fit for purpose". A task force led by Robert Burgess recommended that firsts, 2:1s, 2:2s and thirds should be replaced with a simple "pass", "fail", or "distinction". But the idea was too radical and lacked the necessary support among vice-chancellors, said Universities UK. Instead, one option being considered is to add a new grade within the 2:1 to help employers distinguish between the 40 per cent of all graduates who get upper seconds.
The Independent, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Nov 9)

Universities failing on race relations, says union
Colleges and universities are failing to protect ethnic minority staff from being disadvantaged in the workplace, the University and College Union has warned. The union says higher education institutions have done little to monitor and improve procedures since the Race Relations Amendment Act came into force four years ago. Next week, the union will debate ways to improve this performance at a conference in London. The conference, to be attended by lecturers and academic-related staff from higher education, will launch a campaign to help employers speed up implementation of the Act.
The Guardian

Scottish link will improve education in Malawi
A teacher training scheme aimed at boosting the quality of primary school education in Malawi was launched yesterday by seven Scottish universities. Institutions at Strathclyde, Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Paisley and Stirling universities have joined forces to introduce a two-year bachelor of education degree in primary education for the poverty-stricken African nation. The scheme is being backed by £312,000 over five years from the Scottish Executive, which signed a co-operation agreement with Malawi a year ago, pledging to support education, health and economic development.
The Scotsman

Top-up fees force Britons to study at US universities
One of America's top universities has reported an unprecedented rise in the number of UK students applying for places, prompting fears that young people are becoming increasingly disenchanted with British universities. Princeton University reported a 65 per cent rise in applications over the past year. The dean of admissions said numbers were expected to grow further because Britain's top-up fees meant that students could obtain better financial support from a US university than from one in the UK. Ivy League institutions are increasingly targeting British schools as they look to boost their international intake. About 8,400 British students are studying at US universities, two thirds as undergraduates.
The Independent

Animal rights group creates hit list of universities
Animal rights activists are using freedom of information laws to draw up a “hit list” of universities that conduct research on monkeys. Letters sent to six universities requesting details of experiments involving primates have sparked panic among researchers. The revelation raises the spectre of extremists widening their focus beyond Oxford University, where militants are waging a terror campaign to derail a planned £20 million animal research facility. The group that made the requests under the Freedom of Information Act insists it is non-violent and has not yet decided what it would do with the replies.
The Evening Standard, The Daily Mail, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Nov 9)

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