News round-up: A university credit crunch is looming

A drop in EU student numbers, a huge increase in borrowing by universities and another overseas campus closes. The financial omens for the sector are not looking good


Universities raise alarm over no-deal Brexit and EU student enrolment

The Guardian, 04/01/2019, Sally Weale

University leaders have said that a no-deal Brexit would constitute “one of the biggest threats” ever faced by the sector, as figures revealed a further decline in EU student enrolment, particularly in postgraduate research.

According to the Russell Group of universities, there was a 9% decrease in the number of EU postgraduate research students enrolling at its institutions this academic year. The fall follows a 9% decline the previous year, and has potential consequences for Britain’s research capacity.


Online ‘intimidation’ of ‘left-biased’ academics spreads worldwide

Times Higher Education, 03/01/2019, David Matthews

Academics around the world are facing threats of secret recording and denunciation online by their own students in a sign that tactics used by far-right activists in the US are being adopted more widely.

In response to a wave of incidents where students have posted evidence of alleged left-wing radicalism online, scholars are now demanding stronger support from their institutions in the face of resulting harassment.


University debt: credit crunch looms as debt spirals

The Times, 03/01/2019, Rosemary Bennett, Nicola Woolcock, Ryan Watts

Universities have been warned that they are on the brink of a “credit crunch” after embarking on a record borrowing spree despite deep uncertainty over their financial future.The sector’s debts have risen over the past year to £10.8 billion, three times more than before the


Have the 2010 student protests (eventually) killed £9K fees?

Times Higher Education, 03/01/2019, John Morgan

Perhaps the death of England’s £9,250 tuition fees system – seemingly imminent in the government’s review of post-18 education – started with that system’s own birth.

The Conservative-led coalition government’s 2010 move to drastically cut public funding for universities, treble fees to £9,000 and abolish educational maintenance allowance triggered a new kind of protest movement.


NI students in limbo over Irish tuition fees

BBC, 02/01/2019, Robbie Meredith

Northern Ireland pupils applying to start university in the Republic of Ireland this year still do not know how much they will pay in tuition fees.

That is because it is still not clear if they will be treated as non-EU students after Brexit.

Non-EU students pay much higher fees than students from the Republic and the rest of the EU.


UCL to close Qatar campus in 2020

Times Higher Education, 02/01/2019, Ellie Bothwell

UCL has become the latest university to announce the closure of an international branch campus amid concerns over the future of the overseas outpost model.

A spokeswoman at UCL said that the university’s Qatar campus would close in October 2020 on completion of its contract with the Qatar Foundation. She added that the decision was taken jointly by UCL and the Qatar Foundation.


Reading ‘ignored warning signals’ over Malaysia branch campus

Times Higher Education, 02/01/2019, Ellie Bothwell

The £27 million loss at the University of Reading’s Malaysia branch campus last year should provide lessons about the challenges associated with opening overseas outposts, according to sector experts.

Reading’s latest accounts, published in November, reveal that the Malaysia campus’ deficit pushed the institution as a whole into the red to the tune of £20 million for the year ended July 2018. They state that a detailed financial review of the outpost had concluded that “the current loss-making position would continue for around four years” before the campus breaks even.


Journal shares peer reviews of rejected papers with rival titles

Times Higher Education, 02/01/2019, Rachael Pells

A biology journal’s plan to share peer review reports on papers it does not ultimately publish with rival periodicals has provoked debate about efforts to reduce waste in scientific communication.

BMC Biology, published by BioMed Central, part of Springer Nature, has said that its “portable peer review” policy would allow reviews of papers that had been rejected to be passed to other journals, free of charge, except in cases where the research had been deemed scientifically unsound.


Tuition fees heading down in 2019?

BBC, 28/12/2018, Sean Coughlan

If the education secretary and universities minister are looking across the snowy pages of next year’s diary, there will be one date they’ll already be thinking about.

The recommendations from the review of tuition fees and university funding in England are going to land on their desks, most probably in January or February.