$577k for a University party?

That’s how much Purdue University is said to have spent on a bit of a do for some of its donors (ie around £290k).

ChampagneAccording to the Chronicle, the bash was to celebrate the end of a seven year campaign which raised $1.7B (around £850m). So is it reasonable to splurge under half of a percent of the total in saying thank you?

Subsidising international students

Interesting report from HEPI on the economic costs and benefits of international students.

The basic argument is that international students benefit the UK economy hugely. It is therefore in the nation’s interest to have more of them and it is cost-effective to subsidise their studies (perhaps even offer almost free places as Germany does?) because of the pay back.

– where is the money to come from? This would cost of the order of £1.5B according to HEPI.
– isn’t it a bit perverse to start reducing fees for international students just as we are increasing them for Home ones? And would it not be a bit odd to shut down the nearest thing to a market which exists in UKHE given all of the variable fees rhetoric?
– why doesn’t every international student head for Germany? Is there perhaps a quality issue?
– can we really envisage a Government blank cheque here? Wouldn’t we just end up with a cap on ALL student number expansion?

So, what’s in it for universities?

Digby (Lord) Jones: Honorary Degree

A really good speech from Lord Jones at the Graduation Ceremony on 19 July:

The audio is available on the University of Nottingham Podcast site.


Video also available (for the full gowned effect).

He generously (and, of course, justifiably) compliments the University in many ways and there is a nice anecdote about being picked up for BBC interviews on his first day as a Minister.

Two Ministries better than one?

Mike Baker on the BBC website comments on the possibilities for a “messy divorce” following the break up of the DfES. All seems harmonious so far though, apart from a bit of confusion in the post-16 area.

The role of the new Department which features “Universities” in its title, DIUS, is particularly of interest though:

DIUS logo

The Department will work to:

    – Sustain and develop a world-class research base
    – Maximise the exploitation of the research base to support innovation across all sectors of the economy
    – Raise and widen participation in Higher Education
    – Raise participation and attainment by young people and adults in post-16 education and learning
    – Tackle the skills gap amongst adults, particularly equipping people with basic literacy and numeracy
    – Increase the supply of people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

Mike Shattock, writing in The Higher (13 July 2007, no URL for non-subscribers so you’ll have to buy it) makes a number of interesting observations. He notes with concern the prospects for greater interference in HE whereas others seem to be applauding a Ministry with the word “universities” in the title. His line, with which I have to say I have a great deal of sympathy, is that government should let universities get on with it rather than intervening actively in each of the areas of responsibilty outlined for DIUS (above). So, which way will the new Department go?

Clearly a slow news day…

Leeds Met “offers degree in northernness”

University students can learn about coal-mining, rugby league and brass bands as part of a new degree course in northern life.

And pies?

The one-year Master of Arts course in Northern Studies will run at Leeds Metropolitan University from September. It is thought to be the first time an English university has offered a course dedicated to northernness. The university said the course had already attracted interest from students as far afield as Essex.

It is interesting to speculate about how they identified this gap in the market.

Feedback of a sort

on Graduation

See this chap’s blog

mortar boards

He is arguing about whether the change in fees has brought about a genuine change of attitude in universities and whether we do see students as customers now. Whilst it is not at all as straightforward as this what he does do is commend the University of Nottingham’s graduation set-up. So, rather gratifying!

All shall have academies

Ed Balls has announced that every university should be working on an academy.

Ed Balls, the new Schools Secretary, used his inaugural speech to the House of Commons to call for an accelerated expansion of the academy programme. Mr Balls said he now wanted “every university to actively engage with academies” – the so-called independent state schools created by former prime minister, Tony Blair. And he unveiled a list of nine universities which were to join the academy programme and announced financial incentives for more universities to follow.


And from the dcsf a bit more detail on the institutions currently involved (of which the University of Nottingham is, of course, one of the front runners):

The Government would like every university to sponsor an Academy, and already a number of universities have expressed interest: Imperial College; University of Manchester; University of Aston; University of Nottingham; University of Central England; University of Wolverhampton; University College, London; Queen Mary, University of London; University of Kent; and University of the West of England.

Notes from the Departmental Meeting

Notes from the Departmental meeting are available here (note University of Nottingham access only).

Apologies for not posting these sooner.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed and wrote up notes from the discussion (any subsequent errors are entirely down to me).

Aussies draw back…

…from international programmes. Following the withdrawal by UNSW from its Singapore expedition, others are reining in too according to the Chronicle

The University of Southern Queensland last week confirmed that nearly one-third of its 37 offshore programs had recently been culled, with more cuts likely in the near future.

“I’m not going to tell you that there’s not a general shakeout going on of international operations within the sector at the moment,” Southern Queensland’s international pro vice chancellor, Tim Fowler, said on Thursday, blaming a “very flat” demand expected for admissions and increased scrutiny by the Australian government’s quality-assurance controllers.

“And frankly,” added Mr. Fowler, “that’s not a bad bloody thing — we want to professionalize the international sector of higher education, and part of that is going to mean bringing in more-rigorous systems and processes and models in order to enhance the way we work.”

Helpful plain speaking there.

Defusing the ‘demographic timebomb’

(Ok, strictly speaking, even if there was a demographic timebomb you would require something a bit more drastic than a detailed analysis of the data to ‘defuse’ it)

A new Hepi report on future student numbers: Demand for HE in 2020 and beyond

This little report is a striking one for two reasons – first, it concludes that the decline in demand for HE by 2020 will be less significant than earlier projections. Secondly though, and this is quite dispiriting, the decline in population is greater amongst groups less likely to participate in HE and therefore WP will become even more of a challenge.

Latest news on extension of grants may help alleviate this though.

(Thanks to Caryl for alerting me to this report)

Student records progress

A slightly breathless PR about the fact that we are implementing SITS has appeared.

It is quite difficult to make this kind of thing sound genuinely interesting and I think this represents a decent attempt.

However, the most important thing is that this is a really significant development for the University and as someone says here:

“SITS:Vision will enable us to provide an integrated system for academic administration at our campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia. It will facilitate efficient and transparent processes and provide students and staff with accurate and high quality information.”

Really really interest-ing

Writing about: Really interest-ing

BBC just reported on ‘Help for poor with tuition fees’

More students from poorer families in England and Northern Ireland are to receive full grants for university, the government has said. Students whose families earn less than £25,000 a year will get a full grant – up from the present level of £18,000. Students in families earning up to £50,000 a year will now get some help.

But it is not clear that this will be funded from commercial interest rates. And couldn’t much more be done with this money (Guardian suggested £1.2bn but this is likely to cost only one third of that amount)?

Really interest-ing

According to the Guardian the Government is about to raise the level of interest on student loans to commercial levels:

The head of the newly formed Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, is set to make a big announcement on student support to the House of Commons today.

The new minister’s statement is expected to be about raising the interest rate paid on student loans to more commercial levels.

Earlier this year, Nicholas Barr, professor of public economics at the London School of Economics, and the architect of tuition fees, said the interest subsidy on student loans should be scrapped. It costs the government around £1.2bn a year, which could be better spent on widening participation.

If true, it will be interesting to see how the additional income is channelled into new WP spend.

Community relations – not the first

Reading University has just employed a community relations manager

University bosses have appointed a troubleshooter to put an end to antisocial behaviour by students affecting residents. Reading University’s new community relations manager, has vowed to take “prompt action” over any student troublemakers. But she emphasised that most students were “an asset to the community”. The university has said it hopes the appointment will “build bridges” with residents living near the town campus.

This is undoubtedly a good thing – and at least they don’t claim to be the first to do this. The brief is the right one too and is to be applauded. However the headline “New role to fight student trouble” is perhaps a little more aggressive than the bridge-building that the post-holder is intended to be undertaking.