QSIU HE Digest – UK University Pensions Black Hole

  • UK: University Pension Black Hole
  • EU: Teaching – Research Conundrum
  • Peer Review: Overrated Papers in High-Profile Journals
  • Tuition Fees: More the Merrier ?

University pensions black hole is ‘even worse than thought’. A massive shortfall in a pensions scheme used by UK university staff is even worse than thought, analysis for the BBC’s Newsnight has suggested.In its status report this month the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) put its fund deficit at £7.9bn. But the analysis methods that private companies use put it at £10.5bn. There are concerns that such a significant hole in what is the biggest pension fund in the country could lead to a rise in tuition fees for students.

Full Story: BBC

In Europe, Contradictory Messages About Teaching and Research,Recently in Europe, as in many other countries, there has been a growing focus on research to the detriment of teaching and learning. There are some signs, however, that the pendulum may be beginning to swing back—ever so slowly.In June, the European Union published the first report from its high-level group on the modernization of higher education, which was chaired by the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese. Titled Report to the European Commission on Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning in Europe’s Higher Education Institutions, it has three key points.First, the prioritization of research over teaching and learning, which has led to research being interpreted as the defining characteristic of academic excellence, needs a “sound rebalancing.” Second, given the importance of teaching, faculty members require training to teach at a “high professional standard.” And third, all higher-education institutions should embrace teaching as a core mission to “enable people to learn.”

Full Story: The Chronicle

Scientists have little skill at judging either the intrinsic merit of a research paper or how much of a splash it’s likely to make, British biologists have found. A University of Sussex analysis has found that peer reviewers overrate papers in high profile journals, regardless of their merit. Once the impact factor of the journal is disregarded, peer reviews of the same paper have little in common with each other or the number of citations the paper ultimately attracts. “Scientists are probably the best judges of science, but they are pretty bad at it,” said Adam Eyre-Walker, lead author of a report published today by the open access journal, PLOS Biology.

Full Story: The Australian

Leading universities should be able to charge fees substantially higher than the current £9,000-a-year ceiling to meet the cost of educating their students, the vice-chancellor of Oxford University said today.Professor Andrew Hamilton argued that a university’s fees should be more in line with the cost of what it offers – and pointed out that it costs £16,000 a year to educate a student at Oxford.As a result of being limited to £9,000 a year, Oxford saw a shortfall of £70 million a year in teaching income – which limited its ability to improve standards. Most of the income from increased fees had to be spent offsetting cuts in its budget from the Government.

Full Story: The Independent

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