News in Brief

12 November 2012

University finances warning as applications fall

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has warned that the financial health of the nation’s universities may be in danger. The concern is over a nationwide drop in university applications following the government’s new tuition fees policy. The report claims that 11 institutions are forecasting negative cash flows in the financial year 2012-13, but this is predicted to fall to 10 by 2013-14 and five by 2014-15. The government maintains that its reforms will protect the financial stability of universities.

Cambridge brain surgeons pioneer new 3d technology

Brain surgeons at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge are pioneering a new 3D technology in the UK. This real-time 3d HD visualisation system is set to revolutionise neurosurgery across the globe by enabling the “viewing of extremely detailed operations, such as brain tumour, vascular and skull base surgeries”. Addenbrooke’s is one of very few hospitals across the world to implement this technology. The new technology has already been operated on over 50 patients.

Ofqual to crack down on textbooks which teach to the test

Qualifications watchdog Ofqual has warned that students’ education is being put at risk by the use of exam textbooks which teach to the test at the expense of subject knowledge. The use of these “highly structured” course materials is most prevalent in maths and science at GCSE level, but fears have been voiced that the trend is increasingly extending into A-levels which may impact on students’ capacity to adapt to the independence demanded by higher education. Examination boards, the watchdog warned, are only fuelling the trend as they officially endorse particular textbooks in what they deem a conflict of interest.

Research funding favours top universities at expense of smaller institutions

Councils which provide grants to PhD students are focussing their funding on recipients at a small number of top institutions considered areas of proven research excellence. Smaller institutions argue that this is preventing them from improving. Unable to enjoy studentships, these universities end up receiving lower scores in the Research Excellence Framework, from which funding is decided, perpetuating the cycle of exclusion. The Russell Group has only added to the debate by insisting in a report released last week that their institutions were deserving of funding as “jewels in the crown”.

Buddhists launch bid to build temple in Cambridge

Buddhists from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet and the UK met at Netherhall School in Cambridge to mark the founding of Buddha Metta, a newly established Buddhist-run charity. The group is beginning a campaign to build a temple in the city to cater for the needs of local Buddhists, both members of the community and universities. Around 400 people showed their support at the meeting, and the cost of the scheme is estimated around £400,000 to £500,000.

Study shows increasingly tough job market for UK graduates

Futuretrack, a major long-term study following 50,000 students from UCAS application to employment, suggests that graduates from 2010 onwards face a much tougher job market and harsher economic prospects than those from a decade before. Student debt is up 60% compared with university leavers from 1999. Of the students graduating in 1999, 26% were in non-graduate jobs 18 months after graduating. However of those leaving in 2010, 40% have worked in non-graduate jobs, with even more having taken unpaid work at some stage since leaving university.

Heffers stocks book written by 12-year-old girl

Jenny Grierson, a 12-year-old girl from Newmarket, started writing her book ‘Reaching for the Rocking Horse’ when she was 10. Unbeknownst to her, Jenny’s brother Tim illustrated the book before sending it to a self-publishing website as a 12th birthday present. The siblings then went to book shops all over the region to see if they were interested in selling the book, which will now be available to purchase at Heffers, in Trinity Street, Tindalls, in Newmarket High Street, and Burrows Books, Ely.

Cambridge children’s author wins Roald Dahl Funny Prize

Rebecca Patterson’s ‘My Big Shouting Day’ has won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize for her story about a toddler named Bella, who is having a bad day. Ms Patterson did an MA in children’s book illustration at the Cambridge School of Art and had her first picture book commissioned at the end of the course. She was awarded her £2,500 prize at London’s Unicorn Theatre. Schools across the country were involved in the judging process with more than 500 pupils reading the shortlisted titles. The judging panel included founder of the prize and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, comedian Mel Giedroyc, and journalist and author Lucy Mangan.

Teenager sentenced to unpaid work and a curfew for offensive Facebook posts

Sam Busby, an 18-year-old from Worcester, was taken to court following ‘grossly offensive’ comments he made on his Facebook page about the missing five-year-old April Jones. He was given a six-week suspended jail sentence, 200 hours of unpaid work, and a curfew by Worcester Magistrates’ Court. Busby told the BBC: “I now realise what I said wasn’t funny and it was a stupid thing to do – I would like to apologise to anyone I’ve offended.”