Reporter 434, 29 March 1999


News in brief

Boost for business

British business believes the economy is edging away from recession, according to the latest results of a survey carried out by Leeds University Business School.

The results of the Credit Management Research Centre's quarterly review reveal the first signs of a reversal of the recent downward trend in economic conditions. Of the 500 companies surveyed, more than half were expecting stable or improved conditions during the first quarter of 1999.

"Economic forecasters have been in some disagreement regarding the stage of the UK business cycle and the potential depth of the economic recession," said head of the centre Professor Nick Wilson. "However, the improvements in business conditions evident from our latest quarterly survey appear to have eased some of the pressure."

Great LEAP forward

An innovative scheme offering vocational guidance in business studies to local companies is being established through the office of part-time education. The local education action partnership (LEAP), a joint venture with Bretton Hall College, has received £130,000 funding from the European Social Fund.

Around one hundred employees of small and medium-sized companies will receive a programme of learning based on course modules already taught at the two institutions. Those successfully completing the programme will receive 40 credits towards a University business studies degree, with the option to continue studying for the remainder.

Parliamentary posters

Two University researchers recently presented their work at the first ever reception for young scientists at the House of Commons. Oliver Harlen and Paul Harrison both gave poster presentations at the 'A showcase for great British research' event run as part of the SET99 week. Electrical engineer Dr Harrison used his poster to explore how quantum mechanics can be applied to the next generation of optical-electronic devices, using real-world examples such as bouncing footballs and staircases.

Applied mathematician Dr Harlen described the work within the University's Polymer IRC on modelling the flow of molten plastics. His poster was judged to be one of the best at the event, and he received a prize of £100.

Pay offer rejected

A pay offer of three percent has been made by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association to staff represented by the Association of University Teachers.

The AUT has rejected the offer and authorised a ballot on industrial action. Further negotiations will take place on April 13.

Fairness at work

Over fifty senior employers and trade union leaders discussed the significance and practical implications of the Government's policies promoting fairness at work at Weetwood Hall recently. The event, co-ordinated by University researcher Peter Nolan, was the first meeting of a new forum established by the business school and the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

The issues discussed included the introduction of a statutory trade union recognition procedure, wider consultation requirements and measures to promote partnership at work.

Counselling census

More than seven hundred students took advantage of the advice and support offered by the student counselling service in the last academic year. The service's annual report also shows the most common issue covered was family relationships. Virtually all students attending graded the service as either 'good' or 'excellent'. The full report is on the Reporter website and extra copies are available from the counselling service on ext 4107.

Flora and fauna forged

The Leeds Institute for Plant Biotechnology and Agriculture (LIBA) was officially opened on Friday (March 26). The multidisciplinary research structure, linking the centres for animal sciences and plant sciences, houses eighteen research groups, with a current research grant income of £6.7m.

The opening was accompanied by a symposium at which the president of the National Farmers Union, Ben Gill, and the chief executive of the BBSRC, Ray Baker, were due to give talks.

Soaring scoring

Three departments received 'excellent' ratings in the recent QAA subject reviews. The Nuffield Institute for Health and the Division of Imaging and Radiotherapy Sciences scored a maximum 24, the Dental Institute scored 23 and the Department of Fine Art also scored 23.

The latest successes mean three-quarters of all departments visited this academic year have been judged excellent. "This has been a very good year for us," said Pro-Vice-Chancellor for teaching and learning, Professor Chris Taylor. "The considerable effort put in by the schools concerned and the quality management and enhancement unit is beginning to pay off."

Postgraduate population

The University had 1,863 research and 3,228 taught postgraduate students as of 1 December 1998. 647 of these research postgraduates and 2,333 of taught postgraduates were in their first year. There are 18,153 undergraduate students, 1,139 of whom are part-time. In total, there are 23,244 students at the University.

People power

Three years of focusing on training, staff development and communication has resulted in residential and commercial services being recognised as an 'Investor In People'. The award was presented to the division on March 18. "This award represents a milestone in the development of the division and we are looking forward to building on this success in our policy of constantly improving services to our customers," said director David Irving.

Healthy distance

Healthcare Studies has won a major contract to draw up and supply course programmes to students in the northeast.

From the autumn, the school will deliver the diploma-level courses to both hospital and community-based staff at the Northgate and Prudhoe NHS Trust, which has a growing reputation for caring for patients with learning difficulties. The modules will involve work-based learning and are being specifically designed to meet the needs of the Trust.

"The programmes are being drawn up to cover very specific areas of practice in patients with learning difficulties care," said nursing lecturer Sue Baldwin. "These will include autism, dual diagnosis and challenging behaviour."

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