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Today's news

Top-up fees put off twice as many students as predicted
The prospect of paying top-up fees has put far more school leavers off applying to university than had been predicted. The number of applications has dropped for the first time in six years as thousands of young people reject higher education in favour of getting a job for fear of future debt. Last month Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, predicted that the number of applicants would fall by about 2 per cent, but for those under 21 it is down by 3.9 per cent. With almost 13,000 fewer students in total and 4.5 per cent fewer English applicants studying subjects from law to electronic engineering, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, student leaders called on the Government to review the fees. 
The Times Higher Education Supplement (Feb 17), The Times, The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, The Guardian

Biggest seats of learning book increase in applicants
The number of school-leavers applying for places at Edinburgh's biggest universities has soared, new figures have revealed. The University of Edinburgh and Napier University both saw an increase in the number of applicants bidding to start in September. Only Heriot-Watt of the city's three universities has become less popular, but still did better than the UK average. Scottish universities were bracing themselves for a rush of English students anxious to avoid tuition fees by heading north of the Border, but academics admit the boom has failed to materialise.
The Scotsman

University heads back amended terror bill
The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, today received unexpected support from university heads who sprang to his defence on the terror bill as he struggled to win over Labour MPs in the run-up to what is expected to be an extremely tight Commons vote. After fighting the Government tooth and nail in the House of Lords over proposals to outlaw the glorification of terrorism and providing skills to terrorists, Universities UK, which represents the vice-chancellors, believes that ministers have met their concerns and academics will not be caught by the legislation.
The Guardian, The Times

Brunel appoints new vice-chancellor
Brunel University today announced that its next vice-chancellor is to be Chris Jenks, currently pro-vice-chancellor for research and professor of sociology at the west London institution. He will take over with immediate effect from Mansoor Sarhadi, who has been acting head since the departure of Steven Schwartz. Professor Jenks joined Brunel in August 2004 to spearhead the university's research strategy, following a long tenure at Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London, where he was pro-warden for research.
The Guardian

E-Science research centre nets £2.7m in funding
An Edinburgh-based research centre, which helps scientists from across the world work together over the internet, has received £2.7 million funding. The e-Science Institute, at Edinburgh University, has been given the award by the Research Council UK. The funding will ensure work at the institute continues until at least 2011. Professor Timothy O'Shea, principal and vice chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said: "The university has a worldwide reputation in e-Science - an exciting field of research that extends beyond the sciences.
The Scotsman

Dean considers blessing gay couples in civil partnerships
The dean of a Cambridge college has said he will consider offering blessings for same sex couples, in the first breach of the Church of England's ban on clergy offering services after civil partnership ceremonies. The Rev Jeremy Caddick, Dean of Emmanuel College, has written to the Bishop of Ely telling him that the college does not see itself as falling under his jurisdiction.
The Guardian

University has square go at £1m quad vision
Edinburgh University's historic quadrangle is set to be given a £1 million makeover in a bid to attract more shoppers, office workers and tourists. New plans unveiled today will see the gravel-covered square at the Old College off South Bridge transformed to feature a new oval-shaped grassy area surrounded by Carmyllie sandstone.
The Scotsman

UEA head to lead funding council
The vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia, David Eastwood, has been appointed chief executive of England's higher education funding council, Hefce. He takes over responsibility for distributing £6 billion a year to universities and colleges on September 1 2006. Professor Eastwood assumes one of the most powerful jobs in education at a time when the funding council is at a crossroads. He said today it was an "unusually exciting and challenging period".
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Feb 17)

Students want university to halt for Muslim prayer
A leading university could suspend lessons for two hours a week to allow its Muslim students to pray. Newcastle is considering a student union proposal to reschedule classes on Friday afternoons to avoid a clash with Jumah, prayer time. Muslim students behind the move hope to start a trend that will spread to other British universities.
The Daily Mail

Imperial College looking for NHS merger
Imperial College London announced today it was exploring a possible merger with two London hospital trusts. If the plan goes ahead, the link-up with St Mary's NHS trust and Hammersmith Hospitals NHS trust would be a first in the UK, following the US model of university hospitals such as Harvard, said a spokesman.
The Guardian

Letter
A degree is not a sign of superiority.
The Financial Times

Letter
Overseas students are aware of their value to UK universities.
The Independent

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