News round-up: The rich are far more likely to attend a top university than the poor

The gap between rich and poor starts to widen again – and responsibility for the rise in unconditional offers lies with just 20 universities


Gap between rich and poor students at top universities widens for first time in decade

Independent, 31/01/2019, Eleanor Busby

The gap between rich and poor students going to Britain’s best universities has widened for the first time in nearly a decade, Ucas figures reveal.

Last year, students from the most advantaged backgrounds were 15 times more likely than those from the most disadvantaged social backgrounds, the data shows.

See also:

Access to top universities declines for disadvantaged students

Financial Times, 31/01/2019, Andrew Jack


20 universities account for bulk of rise in unconditional places

The Guardian, 31/01/2019, Richard Adams

A small group of institutions are causing the sudden explosion in the number of unconditional offers being made to sixth formers applying to UK universities, figures have shown.

Data released by Ucas, the higher education admissions service, reveals that most universities only make offers conditional on school-leavers achieving certain grades, and that the bulk of the increase in unconditional offers has come from about 20 institutions.


Call for sector guidelines on academic freedom on social media

Times Higher Education, 31/01/2019, Ellie Bothwell

Universities and academics must urgently establish what constitutes acceptable speech by scholars online, experts have claimed, as several staff at institutions across the UK reveal that they have been contacted or disciplined by managers over their use of social media.

One senior member of staff at a UK university told Times Higher Education that his institution recently considered asking him to resign from his administrative duties after he published a negative tweet about UK government policies.


REF 2021: funders let universities submit redundant staff’s work

Times Higher Education, 31/01/019, Rachael Pells

Universities will be allowed to take credit for the work of academics who they have made redundant in the next research excellence framework, the UK’s funding bodies have announced, as they confirm the rules for the 2021 assessment.

Funders had originally proposed that submission of outputs by researchers who were subsequently made redundant should be prohibited for fear of creating “potential negative incentives”. This would have been an exception to the principle of “portability”, under which the institution at which an output was “demonstrably generated” could have submitted it, as well as the scholar’s current employer


Lords approves two-year degree course plan

BBC, 30/01/2019, Katherine Sellgren

Plans to expand two-year degree courses at universities in England have been approved by the House of Lords.

Universities will be able to charge higher fees for these shorter, more intensive courses from this September.


Demolition of Bristol eyesore makes way for university campus

The Guardian, 30/01/2019, Steven Morris

Demolition work is under way at Bristol’s most famous eyesore, bringing an end to a sprawling, derelict building that became a playground for squatters, illegal ravers and graffiti artists.

The former Royal Mail sorting office, which was once reportedly likened by the former prime minister David Cameron to the “entrance to a war zone”, is to be brought down to make way for a new university campus.


Far-right activity at universities rising as more young people deny Holocaust, experts warn

Independent, 27/01/2019, Eleanor Busby

Far-right activity on university campuses is rising and Holocaust denial is becoming more prevalent among the younger generation, experts say.

As the number of Holocaust survivors continues to decline, and their first-hand testimonies will no longer be heard, the situation is likely to get worse, anti-racist researchers have warned.


Universities ‘pressure-selling’ place offers to school-leavers

The Guardian, 25/01/2019, Richard Adams

Universities in England making “indiscriminate” unconditional offers to potential students may fall foul of consumer legislation against “pressure selling”, the sector’s regulator warned as it launched a consultation on admissions.

The Office for Students (OfS) said it was particularly concerned at the growth of so-called “conditional unconditional offers” in recent years, which see universities giving students guaranteed places only if they name that university as their first choice.

See also:

Clampdown on luring students with unconditional offers

BBC, 25/01/2019, Judith Burns

Eight in ten offers are unconditional at one British university, Ucas figures show

Daily Telegraph, 31/01/2019, Camilla Turner


University has its own Maastricht treaty to brace against Brexit

The Times, 25/01/2019, Rosemary Bennett

A leading university is to sign its own “Maastricht treaty” this week to try to limit the impact Brexit will have on its funding and students.

The University of York will sign a £3 million partnership deal with the University of Maastricht to give “some certainty” over student and staff exchanges as well as research funding in the midst of growing panic over the terms under which the UK will leave the EU.


Work with me to deliver Brexit, minister tells researchers

Times Higher Education, 25/01/2019, Chris Havergal

The universities minister has urged researchers in the UK to “work with” him to “deliver a Brexit that works”.

Chris Skidmore made the remarks, which may be greeted with scepticism by academics given the sector’s widespread opposition to leaving the European Union, during a speech at the UK Atomic Energy Authority in Oxfordshire.


Extremism and hate preachers on the rise at campuses, universities warned

Daily Telegraph, 21/01/2019, Camilla Turner

Extremist speakers are on the rise at universities, figures show, amid warnings that hate preachers are enjoying “near unfettered” access to students.

During the last academic year, there were 200 events held at university campuses which featured individuals with radical views, according to an analysis by a counter extremism think-tank.


Highest graduate starting salary hits £60,000 for the first time

Daily Telegraph, 21/01/2019, Camilla Turner

The highest graduate starting salary has hit £60,000 for the first time, an annual survey has found.

Investment banks offer the most lucrative jobs for university leavers with average first year salaries of £47,000, according to a report published by High Flyers Research.


Luxury spas on campus as universities vie for business

The Times, Rosemary Bennett, 19/01/2019

Oxford will boast a £60 million “luxury hotel-style campus” with spa, yoga space and high-end restaurant. The University of West of England spent a similar sum on a campus including a replica trading room and two law courts.

Now Durham and Bristol universities have joined a multimillion-pound race to build the most lavish business school, designed to capture a slice of the lucrative MBA market.


Oxford University’s chancellor warns  of national security risks when academics collaborate with China

Daily Telegraph, 19/01/2019, Camilla Turner

Oxford University’s chancellor has warned of national security risks when academics collaborate with China.

Lord Patten, who was the last British governor of Hong Kong, said there should be a point of contact in the Government for universities chiefs to turn to if they are concerned about a particular project.