Reporter 417, 23 March 1998


News in brief

Pay offer

A 1998 pay offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association was announced as we went to press. The offer is a staged increase - 2 percent for the first eight months, followed by 3.8 percent for the remaining four. The in-year cost is 2.6 percent. UCEA said the 1998 settlement should not "seek to pre-empt" Sir Michael Bett's Independent Review Committee on HE pay and conditions.

Budget boost

The Chancellor announced a £50m venture capital fund for university research in last week's Budget. The Government is contributing £20m and matching finance will be given by the Wellcome and Gatsby Trusts. The Chancellor said in his Budget Statement to the Commons: "For too long the great scientific advances of British universities have gone on to become the manufacturing successes of rival countries," and added that the fund will help turn British inventions into success for British businesses.

The Government is also to put an additional £250m into education for the coming year - £140m for the general schools budget, £100m for skills training and £10m for the expansion of action zone programmes.

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In the top ten

Leeds has been named in the top ten universities for turning out chartered accountants. Of almost 4,000 graduate accountancy trainees entering the profession in 1996/97, Leeds contributed 158 graduates, or four per cent of the total. The 'big six' accountancy firms alone are aiming to recruit 3,000 graduates this year.

Hotline eases fee fears

Prospective students worried about tuition fees can now ring a Hotline set up by the University of Leeds. Experts will be on hand to answer their queries about fees and other financial headaches.

Details of the free Hotline were announced in a specially produced newspaper which has just been sent to every Leeds High School and all prospective students of the University. Called Money Matters, the eight-page paper is a nuts-and-bolts guide aimed at helping sixth-formers and their parents understand how the new financial regime will affect them.

Produced jointly by the University and Leeds University Union Welfare Services, the tabloid gives details on everything from student loans to typical student budgets, in addition to tuition fees.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Wilson said: "We want to make the introduction of fees as smooth as possible and this publication is the first in a series which will explain the likely arrangements for 1998/99."

·The Hotline operates Monday to Friday, 10.30am to 4.30pm, and all calls are free. The number is: 0800 7833759.

Commons concern

Faced with continued political opposition to the introduction of tuition fees, Education Secretary David Blunkett has proposed extra safeguards to limit future increases in fees.

As the Higher Education Bill returned to the Commons following several key defeats in the Lords, Mr Blunkett proposed a 'lock' to ensure that students pay no more than a quarter of the average cost of a degree. He also suggested that the Education Select Committee could examine any future proposed increases.

Meanwhile, university vice-chancellors have repeated their call for students to get the full benefit of the contributions they make towards their tuition. The impact of this year's Comprehensive Spending Review on higher education remains to be seen. The results of the Review, which will determine public spending levels for the duration of this Parliament, will be announced in the summer.

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Legal eagles set to fly

A team of Leeds law students will travel to Washington, DC, at the end of the week to represent Britain in the world's most prestigious international mooting competition.

The team defeated the London School of Economics in the final of the UK qualifying rounds and will go on to compete against representatives from 85 countries. The final will be held in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the US District Court and be shown live on American television.

This is the third year running that students from the University have represented the UK in the international rounds of the Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition. In 1996 and 1997 the teams reached the final stages but were knocked out by the eventual runners-up.

The team's advisor, Paul Eden of the Law Department, said: "We have received generous funding from the International Law Fund, the General Council of the Bar, the University's Affinity Card Fund, the Law Society, Eversheds, the University Union, Lincoln's Inn and 1, Essex Court and I'm confident this team has the potential to win."

Part-time funding

OPTED has secured European Social Funding for 50 new part-time undergraduate places from this autumn.

The funding is to support lone parents/carers of children or other dependants in the Leeds area who are at present unemployed or underemployed and who cannot achieve their potential because they have knowledge/expertise which is outdated, they made "false starts" on careers broken by other commitments or because their life circumstances, such as widowhood or children reaching school age, have altered their career prospects.

The students will receive free tuition, work experience and a small personal allowance towards dependant care and transport costs. At the University they will study 120 credits over two years on any programme which will contribute to their entry or re-entry to the job market. All departments contributing to part-time degree programmes are invited to participate in the scheme.

Further details and information are available from Dr Tony Donajgrodzki, Office of Part-Time Education.

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Small firms, big issues

Small business attitudes to climate change and ozone depletion is currently being explored by researchers in the School of Geography.

Interviews with more than 40 British, French and German businesses show that although owners and managers are concerned about environmental quality they do not always acknowledge the potential contribution of their own company's activities to the larger picture of global environmental change.

Many business people equate environmental impact only with the most visible forms of pollution. "Transport and distribution figure surprisingly little in business people's own estimation of the impact their company makes on the environment," said Dr Jane Hunt, who is conducting the research with Dr Martin Purvis and Dr Frances Drake.

The team conclude: "Business and government must work together to promote measures which are fiscally neutral and environmentally beneficial."

Good counsel

The University Student Counselling Service has just published its 96/97 Annual Report, which has been distributed across campus. The report shows that 696 people made use of the service last year, an increase of more than 70 on the previous year. 95% of clients found the service to be good or excellent. More copies of the report are available from the Service Secretary on stcmt@adm.leeds.ac.uk

The Service has a website with more details at http://www.leeds.ac.uk/uscs.

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