Weekly news round-up: UK government announces new research advisory team

By Lily Martin• Last updated: Oct 31, 2023
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This week’s news comes from the UK and US, with a PR war from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the announcement of a new research advisory team from the UK government.

Concerns about funding in the higher education sector are growing both in the UK and the US, as the world reels from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on national and international economies.

Here’s your weekly higher education news round-up. 

UK government forms research advisory team

The UK government has announced the formation of a new research advisory team to offer advice to researchers on protecting their work from hostile activity.

The Research Collaboration Advice Team will come under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and will be based in the northern city of Manchester.

It will “promote government advice on security-related topics, such as export controls, cyber security and protection of intellectual property.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced the move, stating that “this new team will give universities and institutions access to the latest advice on safe collaboration with international partners and protections against those who seek to harm the UK.”

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New US report raises concerns about future cuts to state public higher education

A recent report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association has highlighted concerns about state and local funding for public higher education in the United States.

Despite increases in funding in recent years, the report states that public higher education has not fully recovered from cuts made during the 2008 recession.

There are now concerns about the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on future funding in the sector. Federal assistance helped ease some of those concerns, said Brian Prescott, Vice President at the National Centre for Higher Education Management Systems.

Although increases in funding have been present this year, including appropriations per full-time student by 2.9 percent after inflation, there is still a significant funding shortfall.

“Although we did have an increase this year,” said Sophia Laderman, a senior policy analyst at SHEEOA, “it just wasn’t quite enough to make up for all the cuts in the last two recessions.”

“This recession is very different because it was caused by the pandemic,” Laderman added. “I think there’s the potential for states to bounce back and for higher education to bounce back faster.”

Oxford and Cambridge hit the headlines in PR conflict

Oxford and Cambridge University have both been hitting the headlines this week in conflicting PR moves.

Cambridge University Professor Mary Beard has announced a £80,000 retirement gift to support two students from under-represented groups to study Classics at the university.

In a statement, the historian said that the department had worked hard to diversify student intakes but she lamented that the faculty was still “very white”. 

This generous move garnered warm headlines from across the UK and world.

At the University of Oxford however, the decision by Oriel College not to remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes at one of its buildings drew headlines.

Mr Rhodes is considered a deeply controversial figure due to his role in the imperialist history of the UK.

Oriel College said that regulatory and financial challenges had led to the decision despite governors and an independent commission backing its removal.

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