News round-up: Reading halves the workforce at its Malaysia campus, and a benefactor showers money on lucky Oxford

The University of Reading is the latest to find that overseas campuses aren’t as lucrative as hoped, while Oxford has been blessed with a gift of £150m to create a new centre for the humanities


Reading halves Malaysia campus workforce after £27 million loss

Times Higher Education, 21/06/2019, Ellie Bothwell

The University of Reading has drastically scaled back its Malaysia campus in a bid to turn it into a “sustainable operation”, after the outpost made a £27 million loss last year.

Vincenzo Raimo, pro vice-chancellor of global engagement at Reading, told Times Higher Education that the campus had halved its staff workforce, although in many cases this was achieved by not filling vacancies rather than redundancies, and would operate out of just one building on the EduCity complex from August, rather than two as previously.


Vice-chancellors still attend pay meetings despite outcry

The Guardian, 20/06/2019, Richard Adams

Universities have stopped vice-chancellors from voting on the committees that set their pay following last year’s outcry over rising salaries but many university leaders have clung to the right to attend the meetings, it has been revealed.

Freedom of information requests by the University and College Union (UCU) found that just nine universities said they still allowed their vice-chancellor to vote on their institution’s remuneration committee, which sets senior staff pay, compared with 66 that admitted to doing so the previous year


Trinity College could face boycott over pension scheme pullout

The Guardian, 20/06/2019, Richard Adams

Cambridge University’s wealthiest college is facing a crucial vote that could keep it on a collision course with academics and unions over its decision to abandon the national university pension scheme.

Trinity College said at the end of May it was pulling out of the university superannuation scheme (USS), citing a “remote but existential risk” that it could be forced to help bail out the scheme in the event of a collapse of the UK’s higher education sector.


Oxford to receive biggest single donation ‘since the Renaissance’

The Guardian, 19/06/2019, Richard Adams

The University of Oxford has said it is to receive its biggest single direct donation “since the Renaissance”, after it unveiled a £150m gift from the US billionaire Stephen Schwarzman to fund humanities research and tackle looming social issues linked to artificial intelligence.

The money will be used to create the Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, bringing together disciplines including English, philosophy, music and history in a single hub with performing spaces and a library, alongside a new Institute for Ethics in AI to collaborate.


Call for UK to underwrite Horizon Europe bids as deadline nears

Times Higher Education, 19/06/2019, John Morgan

The UK government should extend its underwriting of European Union research grants to the bloc’s next framework programme as the country may not join it in a “timely manner” after Brexit, while some universities have modelled “catastrophic” falls in EU recruitment that would lead to course closures, according to a senior sector figure.

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, was among witnesses who gave evidence to MPs on the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee on 19 June.


Minister hopes for ‘significant uplift’ in QR funding next year

Times Higher Education, 19/06/2019, Rachael Pells

Universities minister Chris Skidmore has said that he hopes to announce a “significant uplift” in quality-related research funding for English universities for 2019-20.

Mr Skidmore told members of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on 19 June that he was “fully aware of the historic reduction in real terms in QR funding” and the negative impact this had on institutions.


Teaching excellence framework (TEF) 2019: results announced

Times Higher Education, 19/06/2019, Chris Havergal

Several UK universities have secured improved ratings in the 2019 teaching excellence framework.

Two institutions – Staffordshire Universityand the University for the Creative Arts – secured gold awards, having previously been rated silver.


Goldsmiths anti-racism protest marks 100th day with rally

The Guardian, 19/06/2019, Molly Blackall and Sally Weale

Students staging an occupation at Goldsmiths, University of London, in protest against what they describe as “institutional racism in academia”, have marked their 100th day of action with a rally and a pledge to carry on indefinitely until their demands are met.

Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action protesters have occupied Deptford town hall on the south London campus since March, demanding a series of measures to tackle racism at the university, including mandatory anti-racism training for all staff.


Poor teaching at universities blamed for student dropouts

The Times, 18/06/2019, Rosemary Bennett

Universities have been told that the growing number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds was not to blame for high dropout rates.

The Office for Students (OfS) said that “access and good outcomes are not a zero-sum game” and the evidence suggested that it was poorly taught courses with thin content that drove young people away.


UK universities ‘block funding bids’ because of overhead costs

Times Higher Education, 18/06/2019, Rachael Pells

Leading UK universities are telling researchers not to apply for some streams of research funding because they can’t afford to pay the associated overheads, a senior academic has claimed.

David Lomas, vice-provost (health) at UCL, told the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee that the real-terms fall in quality-related funding meant that universities were less able to complement grant money with central funds, and less able to cover overheads such as infrastructure, facilities and training.


‘Rape chat’ scandal hits Warwick University’s fundraising

The Times, 15/06/2019, Rosemary Bennett

Warwick University was forced to suspend its annual fund-raising drive after former students contacted for donations expressed their anger at its handling of the Facebook rape chat scandal.

A group chat involving 11 male students had included repeated graphic threats of rape, genital mutilation and assault against their female peers. Posts included a message saying: “Sometimes it’s fun to just go wild and rape 100 girls.”


Contact our parents to help with mental health, say students

The Times, 13/06/2019, Rosemary Bennett

Students want universities to contact their parents if they have concerns for their mental health, a national survey has found.

Eighty-one per cent of students said that universities should not let data protection laws prevent them from informing families if students need help. Only 18 per cent said they would not want parents or a guardian involved.


Universities urged to hire staff to investigate sexual harassment

The Guardian, 12/06/2019, Richard Adams

Universities should hire specialist staff to investigate hate crimes and sexual harassment against their students, according to a report commissioned by the higher education regulator for England.

The institutions were also urged to encourage greater levels of reporting of such incidents, and hold sessions on consent for undergraduates and postgraduates, along with “bystander training” for students and staff to encourage prevention.


University entrance system could be overhauled so students only apply after they have their A-level grades

Daily Telegraph, 10/06/2019, Camilla Turner

The university entrance system could be overhauled so students only apply after they have their A-level grades.

The higher education watchdog, The Office for Students (OfS), is to launch a major review later this year into the university admissions system


Universities to face new research integrity watchdog in wake of UCL stem cell scandal

Daily Telegraph, 10/06/2019, Camilla Turner

Universities are to face a new research integrity watchdog in the wake of the University College London stem cell scandal.

The Telegraph disclosed how UCL scientists at behind a clinical trial were accused of a “cover-up” over the deaths of two young women who died after undergoing experimental stem cell treatment.