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Top universities ‘doubled pay for senior staff’

Top universities ‘doubled pay for senior staff’

BBC |April 20, 2012

By Judith Burns BBC News education reporter

Leading universities doubled their spending on senior staff in less than a decade, a report claims.

Russell Group universities spent £382m on staff earning£100,000 or more last year, twice as much as in 2003-04, the research suggests.

The study by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts says the proportion of spending on top staff rose from 1.8% to 3.8%.

The Russell Group said top staff had taken small rises, pay freezes or cuts.

The report said that figures on pay for senior staff from the Russell Group of leading universities had implications across the higher education sector.

“At most universities we’ve seen year-on-year increases in student fees and hall fees combined with real-terms pay cuts and attacks on pensions for lecturers and cleaners alike.

Higher pay

“At the same time universities have massively expanded the pay and number of senior managers that they employ.”

“With the total cuts to UK universities being at 3.4% these figures are extremely worrying. It is entirely possible that a significant proportion of the cuts could be mitigated by restraint at the top,” said the report.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group said: “Our vice-chancellors and other senior staff lead complex multi-million pound organisations that succeed on a global stage.

“First rate leadership and academic talent is crucial if our universities are to continue to excel in such a challenging economic climate.”

Dr Piatt said the average rise for a Russell Group vice chancellor this year had been lower than both UK inflation and the country’s average pay rise.

The group described the research as flawed as it fails to account for inflation.

The highest spend was at University College London with £50m paid to staff earning over £100,000 or more. Some of these were NHS consultants at the university’s teaching hospital.

Imperial College London paid senior staff almost £40m, while the figure for the University of Oxford was just over£35m.

Michael Chessum, a senior member of the National Union of Students and co-author of the report, said pay rises were a significant drain on universities’ budgets.

Mr Chessum told Times Higher magazine: “When we first berated vice-chancellors about their pay packages, we did so because we felt they were out of touch with ordinary staff and students.

“We are now seeing that the amount of money drawn by the highest paid staff is having a real impact on university finances.”


Michael Gove calls on watchdog to let universities set A-level examinations

Michael Gove calls on watchdog to let universities set A-level examinations

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Students sitting exams

Michael Gove’s move is likely to lead to fewer top grades and longer essay questions in A-level exams. Photograph: Keith Morris/Alamy

Education secretary Michael Gove has asked the top universities to set A-level exams, amid fears that tens of thousands of teenagers are woefully under-prepared when they start their degrees.

Gove has instructed the exam boards and ministers to “take a step back” from dictating the content of A-levels and hand over the power to academics. At present, the Department for Education sets out the structure and core knowledge A-level students need to know, and exam boards devise the questions and coursework. Gove has written to the qualifications watchdog, Ofqual, asking for universities to be allowed to “drive the system”.

The 24 most academically competitive universities in the UK, known as the Russell Group, will be allowed to set questions and the content of the syllabus. Schools will be advised to put their pupils in for only those A-levels that have been approved by the universities.

When A-levels were introduced in the early 1950s, they were set by universities and seen as rigorous preparation for degree courses.

Gove’s move is likely to lead to fewer students achieving top grades, the abolition of modules and retakes – other than in exceptional circumstances – and longer essay questions in exams.

The coalition wants the new A-levels to be taught from as soon as 2014. Students would sit the exams two years later. Initially, the changes would affect English, maths and science A-levels in England, but would soon be rolled out to all subjects and across the UK.

Gove said Ofqual must ensure university ownership of the exams was “real and committed, not a tick-box exercise”.

“I am increasingly concerned that current A-levels, though they have much to commend them, fall short of commanding the level of confidence we would want to see,” his letter to Ofqual states.

“I do not envisage the Department for Education having a role in the development of A-level qualifications. It is more important that universities are satisfied that A-levels enable young people to start their degrees having gained the right knowledge and skills than that ministers are able to influence content or methods of assessment.”

Meanwhile, a poll of lecturers has found that many think A-level exams no longer prepare students for university. Just over half of the 633 academics polled by Cambridge University’s exam board, Cambridge Assessment, said students did not possess the writing or critical thinking skills needed for their degree courses. Three-fifths said their universities offered catchup classes for first-year undergraduates.

The poll, part of an 18-month study into how A-levels can better prepare students for university, found that academics wanted to limit the number of times students can retake their exams. In one case, a mature student was allowed to retake an A-level maths module 29 times.

The lecturers, who taught English, history, geography, psychology and business studies degrees, called for A-level exams to include more open-ended questions and encourage more independent study.

Andrew Hall, chief executive of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance exam board, has said A-levels need to be reliable “but the pendulum has swung too far that way, so there’s a danger that they are too predictable”.

Budget: £100m University Research Pledge For UK

Budget: £100m university research pledge for UK

BBC |March 21, 2012

By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a £100m fund to boost university research in the UK through private sector involvement.

The government was committing the cash for “investment in major new university research facilities”, he said in his Budget speech.

Few details have been released, but the funding is intended to attract outside investment for universities.

Universities and campaign groups say it will help offset cuts to the sector.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills said the funds would go to “large capital projects” which bring in “significant private investment”, for example joint research facilities.

A spokeswoman said details would be announced soon.

‘Step in right direction’Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Industry and universities have a vital role to play in collaborating to achieve sustained growth in our economy.

“We know from experience that targeted funding can be successful in attracting significant business investment to our university research base. As part of our drive in bringing together the business, charity and university sectors, this new £100m investment could bring in upwards of £200m additional private funding to help stimulate innovation and secure our high-tech future.”

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said the investment was helpful – but not enough.

“These things are very welcome but on their own they are only green shoots,” he said.

“In the UK, the government and industry still invest a smaller percentage of our Gross Domestic Product in research and development than our competitor economies and while that remains the case we will not fulfil the Chancellor’s goal of making the UK into Europe’s technology centre.”

Imran Khan, the director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said: “Today’s announcement is the latest in a string of pledges of extra cash for science and engineering, and shows that the government does understand that we cannot have a rebalanced economy without investment in research.

“I suspect the government realises that the multi-billion pound, 50% cut made to research capital in 2010 simply isn’t sustainable. Despite difficult times they are trying to put it right.

“However, simply reversing cuts isn’t going to be a game-changer for the UK. We need to be far more ambitious if we’re serious about having a high-tech future.”

‘Right direction’ In autumn 2010, the chancellor said he was freezing the annual science budget for four years at £4.6bn per year, although when inflation was taken in to account, this amounted to a 10% cut in real terms.

Later, a 40% cut to the sector’s capital expenditure was announced – money spent on building, maintenance or equipment.

The director general of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, Wendy Piatt, said: “The research which takes place in our world-class universities drives long-term and sustainable economic growth. But the first-rate infrastructure needed to facilitate the very best research and teaching cannot be bought on the cheap.

“Today’s Budget announcement … is a step in the right direction, especially following recent cuts to capital spending.

“Let’s not forget that our competitors are injecting vast amounts of cash into their universities, and our leading universities are already under-resourced in comparison with our international competitors.”

New Award To Raise University Aspirations Of All Pupils

New award to raise university aspirations of all pupils


Press notice
Press notice date: 15 March 2012
Updated: 15 March 2012

Schools Minister Nick Gibb today announced a new national award scheme to recognise the top achievers in every secondary school in England – and those showing great potential.

He said that the “Dux” – Latin for leader or champion – would help raise the aspirations of all pupils, including those from less affluent backgrounds, to go to university, including our top higher education institutions. A similar scheme, also called Dux, already exists in schools in Scotland.

The award, open to all maintained secondary schools, will see teachers selecting a Year 9 pupil as their Dux. They will be rewarded with a visit to one of the 20 current Russell Group universities.

The Russell Group represents leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining high-quality research, outstanding teaching and education, and excellent links with business and the public sector.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

This is an opportunity for schools to celebrate success, and to develop and reward high performing pupils.

Teachers may decide to choose pupils who might not be at the top of the class but who have outstanding potential to become high achievers. These could include children whose families may traditionally not have gone to higher education. They may wrongly assume that university is something ‘other people’do.

Visiting any of these great educational institutions, and seeing first-hand the possibilities that exist there, will open pupils’ eyes to an exciting world in which they can not only take part, but thrive.

Nick Gibb added:

Our world-class universities are for all those with good qualifications and real promise – not just the few. They already do a great deal to increase access to higher education and run extensive outreach programmes offering a wide range of opportunities for school pupils.

This is about ensuring that schools are playing their part in promoting excellence and in supporting pupils, including from disadvantaged backgrounds, to aim for prestigious universities.

I am delighted that so many leading universities are committed to the programme.

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

Russell Group universities already pump millions into a range of schemes to attract young people from non-traditional backgrounds. Many of our universities run successful summer schools and work with local schools – including those where there is little history of pupils progressing to research-intensive universities.

Too few pupils from some state schools get the right grades in the right subjects to apply to leading universities but there is also evidence that even with good grades state school students are much less likely to apply to top universities than those at equivalent independent schools.  So we hope this scheme will help raise the aspirations not only of Dux winners but all other bright teenagers at their schools and make sure they are thinking about their options at a younger age.

We are delighted to be offering bright prospective students the opportunity to come and meet our students and lecturers and have taster sessions. All of our universities look forward to welcoming the winners and their teachers and helping to build long term working relationships so that all young people – whatever their background or school type – know that a Russell Group university could be within their grasp.

We’re ready to offer all top achievers – whether or not they win the Dux – the chance of a place: we need their teachers or advisors to persuade them to apply. Wherever you’re from, with the right grades, attitude and potential, you have a good chance of getting into a Russell Group university. So if there are pupils out there who don’t manage to win but are still interested we would urge them to find out about general open days and other activities for school pupils’ on university websites.

Similar awards already exist in a number of other countries, including Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Case study

At Imperial College London, Dux prize winners will be given the chance to take part in three activities around the future of energy. They will work with current students and researchers on carbon capture and storage solutions, explore fuel cell technology that could power high-performance low-emission cars, and experiment with new solar cell technology that could make solar energy cheap and accessible for all. Prize winners will then come together to discuss how the science, technology and engineering activities they have been working with can help deal with climate change and energy sustainability.

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