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In a week when the government reshuffled its cabinet, HE issues that made headlines gave the newly-appointed universities minister a taste of things to come, says Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Institute of Student Employers .
The past week’s events and news are a sign of turbulent times for UK universities, warns Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University.
Mike Ratcliffe, academic registrar at Nottingham Trent University, reflects on issues emerging from a packed week of higher education news.
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for higher education has reported almost a 21 per cent rise in the number of complaints it received from students last year – rising to their highest ever level at 2,371.
Universities and science minister Jo Johnson has announced new funding "to put the UK at the forefront of international research and inspire the next generation of world-class scientists".
Delivering the annual Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) lecture, he highlighted the importance of the UK’s international research partnerships and the strength of ties with European research partners.
The minister announced the government will double the Newton Fund for international research from its current £75 million per year to £150 million per year by 2021, meaning a total investment of £735 million from 2014 to 2021. The fund will enable UK scientists to partner with academics and researchers in developing countries and emerging markets to support their economic development and the UK’s research base.
He also gave details of a new government partnership with the Wellcome Trust to deliver the £30 million Inspiring Science Capital Fund, with £20 million from government and £10 million from the Wellcome Trust. Science centres and attractions across the UK will be able to bid into the fund to refresh and refurbish exhibitions and infrastructure to inspire young people from all backgrounds to engage with science and consider a STEM career.
Addressing an audience of 400 scientists and engineers at the prestigious event at the Royal Institution, Johnson said: "Our global scientific impact far exceeds our size as a nation, and our scientists and engineers stand tall on the world’s stage. We want Britain to be the best place in Europe to innovate, and by protecting the science budget we’re giving the clearest signal that science and innovation sit at the very heart of this government’s economic plan. Extending the Newton Fund provides a unique opportunity for UK academics to work with partners around the world to address some of the biggest challenges of our time."
The minister highlighted the strength of the UK’s research partnerships with Europe and the rest of the world, pointing out that around half of all UK research publications now involve international collaborations, and European countries provide some of the UK’s closest research ties.
"Because of the excellence of our research base, it is no surprise that the UK is one of the most successful players in EU research programmes.
The UK received €7 billion (£5.3 billion) under the last Framework Programme. That made the UK one of the largest beneficiaries of EU research funding. In the current funding round, Horizon 2020, the UK has secured 15.4 per cent of funds, behind only Germany on 16.5 per cent, and with the second largest number of participating organisations," he said.
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