News in brief
Calling all guardians of clarity
"Instead of adding to the overall footprint we are looking at the whole envelope of estate in terms of its conditionality." If that sentence makes no sense whatsoever, fear not. It appeared in a university-wide management missive circulated in one of the UK's most prestigious institutions, and it was forwarded to Times Higher Education by an exasperated member of staff. We suspect that the university's senior management is not alone in producing such baffling, jargon-laden diktats, which is why we are launching a new email jargon competition calling for similar examples. Please send specimens of "joined-up thinking from an end-user perspective" to firstname.lastname@example.org by 19 October. No distinguishing details will be published without permission. But remember, as one university told its staff: "We need to be careful about positioning ourselves into messaging that comes back to bite when these data become available."
An innovation for synthetic biology
Vince Cable, the business secretary, has announced the creation of an innovation and knowledge centre in synthetic biology. The centre, whose timing, budget and location are yet to be announced, will be the seventh such unit established by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to help accelerate business exploitation of emerging research fields. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board will be partners in the centre.
Seven universities are to collaborate in a "virtual" institute researching the science of cybersecurity. Established with a £2 million grant from the intelligence agency GCHQ and £1.8 million from the research councils' Global Uncertainties Programme, and led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the institute will have a physical headquarters at University College London. Led by director of research Angela Sasse, the institute will use technological and behavioural approaches to discover ways to increase cyberprotection. From next month, researchers from UCL, the University of Aberdeen, Imperial College London, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, and the University of London's Queen Mary and Royal Holloway will work in collaboration with industry across four research streams over the three-and-a-half-year project.
Tuition fee cap frozen
The maximum annual tuition fee for universities in Wales is to be frozen at £9,000 for the next three years, the Welsh government has announced. In a written statement, education minister Leighton Andrews also confirmed details of the country's support package for new students. The maximum tuition fee loan available to those ordinarily resident in Wales will increase by the rate of inflation in each academic year, the minister said, meaning next year's maximum loan will be £3,575. A tuition fee grant from the devolved government will continue to cover the remaining element of tuition fees, wherever in the UK Welsh students choose to study. Most universities in Wales currently charge the maximum £9,000 a year, although several institutions have announced their intention to drop fees to about £7,500 in 2013-14.
News that leading English universities have lost hundreds of students partly as a result of the government's AAB system was met with a tidal wave of "I told you so" responses from readers. "We knew when the Government had this brain wave and tried to retro-fit it to the system at the last minute that this could go wrong. And behold!" wrote Wonkers. Another reader, under the name Hardly A Surprise, reasoned that because the AAB system "pitted selective institutions against each other", the outcomes were predictable. "If one institution expanded it was likely that another would shrink, particularly if there were no extra AAB students."