News round-up: Half of all academics suffer from stress-related mental health problems – but there is good news for EU students

More evidence that an academic career is highly stressful, while the UKRI counts the cost as it fails to register as a charity


Half of UK academics ‘suffer stress-linked mental health problems’

Times Higher Education, 06/07/2018, Jack Grove

About half of all UK university staff have suffered depression, anxiety or other types of mental health problems related to stress – one of the highest rates of any sector, a conference has heard.

Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire, told a forum on staff well-being in higher education at London Metropolitan University on 4 July that some 55 per cent of the 6,439 UK academics she had polled say they had experienced symptoms including depression, sleeping problems and cognitive impairment.


UKRI counts tax cost after charity status ‘blunder’

Times Higher Education, 05/07/2018, Rachel Pells

The government’s new organisation in charge of UK research, UKRI, faces a financial hit amounting to millions of pounds a year as it has not yet been able to secure charitable status, Times Higher Education can reveal.

UK Research and Innovation – which said it had an “aspiration” that the problem will not affect research funding – was launched on 1 April, encompassing the seven research funding councils as well as the non-departmental government body Innovate UK.


Are teaching and research mutually exclusive?

Times Higher Education, 05/07/2018, Jack Grove

The notion that the best university teaching is delivered by active researchers has for many years been regarded as something of a truism. The ideal of the teacher-researcher, popularised by Wilhelm von Humboldt, founder of the Humboldt University of Berlin in the early 19th century, is embraced particularly enthusiastically at research-intensive institutions, which tout the opportunity to be taught by those at the cutting edge of disciplinary advances as one of their unique selling points to students. But even less traditionally research-intensive institutions are influenced by the ideal, with some encouraging or even requiring their staff to have PhDs.


Ucas mature student report shows ‘one size doesn’t fit all’

Times Higher Education, 05/07/2018, Anna McKie

Mature students mainly study subjects allied to medicine, including nursing, and education, according to a report from Ucas.

The share of mature students pursuing subjects allied to medicine is 17.9 percentage points greater than the share of 18-year-olds, according to the report.


The great balance sheet shift of British universities, pt. I

Financial Times, 03/07/2018, Thomas Hale

In the 13th century, it got its Royal Charter from King Henry III; in the 21st, it received a triple-A rating from Moody’s.

Last month, Cambridge University tapped the bond markets for the second time this decade. Its £600m of newly issued debt marked the continuation of a wider trend – since the beginning of 2013, UK universities have issued £4.4bn in bonds according to Dealogic data. Previously, there were scarcely any university bonds.


How to get a good deal for students

BBC, 03/07/2018, Branwen Jeffreys

There have been around 400 submissions to a panel looking at how to pay for study beyond the age of 18 and there’s a lot to chew over.

Many responses are about how difficult it is to understand student finance, and how poorly it works for some, such as those studying part time.


University of Reading tells refugee plan critics to ‘jog on’

BBC, 03/07/2018

A university has told people unhappy with its plans to offer scholarships to refugees to “jog on” on Twitter.

The tweet from the official account of the University of Reading explained that they had received negative feedback since announcing the scheme.

It added: “To these people, we would like to say: Tough.”



A university education is not a product to be checked on

The Guardian, 03/07/2018, Peter Scott

Brexit is not the only policy area in which the government doesn’t know what it wants. In February the prime minister herself established a review of the future funding of English higher education led by Philip Augar. The cynical view may have been that this was a panicky party-political reaction to Labour’s, probably exaggerated, appeal among young people because of its pledge to abolish fees. But at least it opened up the possibility common sense might prevail.


Universities warned of ‘creeping segregation’ as Sheffield launches LGBT-only student halls

Daily Telegraph, 30/06/2018, Luke Mintz

Universities have been warned of a “creeping segregation” on campus after Sheffield became the first in the country to open student housing where only gay and transgender students are allowed to live.

Sheffield University says it will open a set of LGBT-only student flats in September to provide a “safe space for students to be themselves”.


EU students in England get post-Brexit fees pledge for 2019-20

Times Higher Education, 02/07/2018, Ellie Bothwell

European Union students enrolling in English universities in 2019-20 will pay the same tuition fees as UK students and remain eligible for financial support for the duration of their courses, the Department for Education has announced.

The government also said that the maximum tuition fees that a university will be able to charge will be frozen for the second consecutive year in 2019-20 at £9,250.

Using more rigorous external examiners would help rein in grade inflation

Times Higher Education, 30/06/2018, Tim Horder

In 1995, 8 per cent of students left university with a first-class honours degree. By 2013, the figure had risen to 18 per cent, and last year the figure rose again: an astonishing 26 per cent of students now leave with firsts, more than end up with lower-seconds. Some universities seem to have abandoned all sense of proportion: last year, Imperial College London awarded firsts to 45 per cent of students, while the figure for the University of Surrey was 44 per cent. No one seriously believes that this is because the calibre of graduating students is improving. It is, unfortunately, an inevitable consequence of a market-driven higher education system, in which universities compete with each other to attract the best students, and in which students rely on league tables and rankings to make their choices.


Student loans: use of RPI costs graduates up to £16,000

The Guardian, 28/06/2018, The Guardian

Graduates with student loans in England are saddled with up to £16,000 more debt because of the government’s use of an unreliable inflation measure to set interest rates, according to research from the House of Commons library.


Universities told to back mental-health charter for students

The Times, 28/06/2018, Rosemary Bennett

Students’ mental health must be treated as seriously as academic studies or authorities risk failing a generation, the universities minister has said.

Institutions that improved their mental-health services along with pastoral care would be invited to sign up to a new charter, in effect a kitemark showing prospective students that they are more likely to be supported there. Under plans being examined by the government, students would be asked during freshers’ week if they would like a trusted adult to be told if they suffer a mental-health crisis at university.


Council condemns ‘insular and selfish’ Durham University students

The Times, 28/06/2018, Rosemary Bennett

The fractured relationship between town and gown in Durham has been laid bare at an angry council meeting where students were criticised as insular and selfish.

Jan Blakey, a councillor, said that those who studied at the elite university did not bother to get to know local people, had no understanding of the area’s history and swamped local buses, preventing locals from getting on every day.