This week’s top stories are predominantly from the UK and United States, in the aftermath of students being welcomed back to UK university campuses on May 17.
Many UK universities have announced that they will be continuing online teaching into the next academic year, with multiple institutions pledging themselves to a ‘blended learning’ approach.
Moreover, leading New Zealand academic and former government scientific advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, has been announced to lead the international advisory body to look into the UK’s Research Excellence Framework.
In the United States, a recent survey from the American Council of Education has highlighted support for international students from US voters.
Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup.
UK universities announce the continuation of online teaching
A number of UK universities have announced that they are planning on keeping lectures online into the autumn term in September and October 2021.
This has raised the prospect of Covid-19 adding further disruption to students into another academic year, prompting more questions about university fees and refunds.
Nevertheless, a growing number of universities have made provisions for a mixture of face-to-face and online teaching after the summer break.
The decision to continue ‘blended learning’ comes as this week students in the UK have been allowed back onto campus for the last weeks of the final term of the academic year.
Universities that have announced this move include the London School of Economics, the University of Manchester, St Andrews University, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Leeds.
A spokesperson for Universities UK said that universities were planning without knowing what restrictions would be in place by the autumn term. It is thought that even if lectures are online, students would still have access to facilities such as libraries and laboratories.
“Universities have a strong track record in delivering excellent blended tuition,” a Department of Education spokeswoman added.
US voters pledge support for international students
Recent research from the American Council of Education has indicated that recognition of the positive impact of international students is widespread amongst voters in the US.
The study has highlighted that the majority of US voters recognise both the intellectual and diplomatic benefits of international students studying in the country.
Over 60% of those surveyed agreed with the statement that “international students should be given the opportunity, going through the proper legal channels to stay in the US to work and live after graduation.”
Moreover the findings, from a survey of 1,000 US voters, included that there is a lack of support for a “concerted effort” to grow the number of international students in the country.
This could act as a motivator for greater governmental support for increasing the international student programme in the US at many colleges and universities.
The research also found that 55% of those surveyed agreed that the US should encourage more students from other countries “in order to strengthen the US economy and contribute to our international competitiveness”.
New Zealand scientist announced to lead Research Excellence Framework review
A former government scientific advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, has been announced to lead the international advisory body to review the UK’s Research Excellence Framework.
Sir Gluckman, a pediatrician and biomedical scientist, was chief science advisor to New Zealand’s Prime Minister between 2009 and 2018. He will now chair an international advisory group examining the future of research assessment in the UK.
The UK’s Research Excellence Framework determines the quality of research conducted at UK universities, helping determine the allocation of approximately £1.6 billion of quality-related funding annually. It is also used as a significant indicator to prospective international students at the quality of UK institutions.
The advisory body will “investigate possible different approaches to the evaluation of UK higher education research performance” and involve a series of engagement events and a formal written consultation. The programme of work is expected to be completed by late 2022.
Sir Gluckman, who is President-Elect of the International Science Council and the current head of the Centre for Science in Diplomacy and Society at the University of Auckland, said that he was keen to work with his international colleagues in his new role.
“This is an exciting opportunity to consider how national research assessment can form the foundation for a healthy, inclusive and dynamic research system,” he added.