HEW Weekly Wrap Up 21 March 2014

HEW Weekly Wrap Up 21 March 2014

News – PVCR Meetings in Brussels

This week the HEW Pro Vice Chancellor Research Advisory Group visited Brussels to meet with a range of European representatives. The visit kicked off with a dinner with Dr Cornelis Vis of the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA), which acted as a useful scene setting exercise, and provided insight into the workings of BEPA. Day two started with a breakfast reception to promote the Elsevier report on the European stage. The event attracted around 40 delegates from a range of departments and organisations in Brussels. Two of Wales’ MEPs also attended. Following the event, the PVCs met with representatives of DG Research and Innovation, DG Regio, TSB, and Enterprise Ireland to discuss a range of issues around Horizon2020, the implementation of the European Research Area, Structural and Investment funds, and target setting for Horizon2020. The HEW office will be working closely with WHEB to follow up on the key outcomes and next steps. Many thanks to the WHEB team for organising a successful visit.

News – Universities Week Update

Universities Week is being held between 9-13 June 2014 with the theme of ‘Ideas for Life’. The intention is for HEW to hold an event on Wednesday 11 June in conjunction with the National Museum of Wales based on how university research impacts the lives of all of us – every single day – and is addressing the challenges the public wants solving. There will be exhibition space throughout the week focusing on key inventions from Welsh HE and an opportunity for the sector to have a workshop day on the Saturday of Universities Week in the education centre of the museum.

Event – British Council South Asia Marketing & Partnership Forum

The South Asia SIEM team will be visiting the UK in April for an event at the British Council offices in London on Tuesday 8th of April: South Asia Marketing & Partnership Forum. This forum will provide an opportunity to discuss the latest strategies for engagement with this region as well as meet regional and UK colleagues with an active interest in these markets. The British Council currently operates SIEM in 5 South Asia countries – India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan – as well as discussion around these existing markets they are going to be holding a first ever session on Iran which will look at some of the opportunities opening up there. After the forum they will be holding the first South Asia Working Group. This group is limited to a membership of 12 and British Council are keen to have a good representation from the UK regionally and across the education sector. If you are interested in joining this group then please follow the link which provides the working group’s terms of reference and a registration portal.

To register for the Forum please follow this link.

To express an interest in joining the South Asia Working Group please follow this link.

Update – Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD)

A busy new start to the year with 2 new institutions joining HEDD, Goldsmiths, University of London in January and then King’s College, London, who went live on Monday 17 March. Both institutions are using the manual system which gives access to the dashboard for managing enquiries and the heddhelp customer service. HEDD has had almost 23000 through the system since its launch back in 2011. 3000 active enquirers are registered with HEDD, including all the major screening agencies, employers large and small from both the UK and across the world, plus numerous Embassies and British Council offices using the system.

HEDD has also been involved in the recording of a BBC 1 show ‘Fake Britain’, highlighting the extent of degree fraud in the UK and looking at how the government is dealing with this. The programme will be aired in May 2014.
Further information on HEDD is available here.

Update – New immigration quotas for EU citizens will have major repercussion for HE, warns Lisa Bungeroth

On 9 February, just over half of Swiss voters (50.3%) supported a proposal from the Swiss People’s Party to put in place immigration quotas for EU citizens, in spite of strong opposition from government, business and academic leaders. This is going to have unprecedented consequences for Swiss higher education and research institutions as well as businesses when it comes to take part in EU funding programmes – and because these are collaborative in nature, this will impact on the UK HE sector, too.

As Switzerland is not an EU Member State, it does not automatically participate in EU programmes, but it has always successfully negotiated its involvement with them; among the top 10 recipients of funding from the last Framework Programme are two Swiss institutions (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne on 6 and Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerich on 9).

However, in the mandate for negotiating Switzerland’s association to the new round of EU funding programmes for research and higher education, Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, the EU explicitly referenced the signing of the free movement agreement with Croatia, the latest country to join the EU in July last year. Switzerland’s referendum on EU immigration quotas means that Switzerland is currently unable to sign an agreement to extend free movement to Croatia, which means that the Swiss Government will have to await a legal review to determine its position, expected to be completed in early April.

Due to the timescales of the calls for funding in both Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ this now means that Swiss higher education and research institutions and businesses will not be able to participate in the same way they did in the last round of programmes. Instead of having the associated status they enjoyed before, they will now participate in Horizon 2020 actions as entities from any industrialised third country. It means that Swiss participants are not automatically eligible for funding and will not count towards the minimum number of participants required for a project in Horizon 2020. It also means that mobility between EU and Swiss institutions will not be funded under the Erasmus+ programme for at least for academic year 2014/15. However, Swiss participation in projects under the 7th Framework Programme and the Lifelong Learning Programme is not affected. The UK HE International Unit has produced an Information Note that provides further detail and was sent to the UK HE sector.

For UK institutions, it is now important to review their currently ongoing applications and bids for Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ funding. If these include Swiss institutions as partners, they will need to ensure that the eligibility criteria for the specific call are still met, even though the Swiss partner’s status has changed to third country-participant. This might include finding another partner institution from an EU Member State or Associated Country to meet minimum eligibility criteria.

Negotiations between Switzerland and the EU might be continued and completed later in 2014 leading to Switzerland’s association in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+. The European Commission has assured that the rules on Swiss participation would revert immediately to allow them to be funded as an associate member if this were the case. Commenting on the situation, many MEPs stated that whilst it was important to respect the vote of the Swiss people, free movement was a fundamental principle of the EU and this needed to be reflected in the negotiations with Switzerland. The EU could not allow countries to pick and choose the extent of their involvement with the Union. The UK HE International Unit will inform the sector immediately of any changes in the Swiss status.

Lisa Bungeroth is the IU Policy Officer for European Research.

Inquiry – NAfW inquiry into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Skills

The National Assembly for Wales’s Enterprise and Business Committee is to undertake a follow-up inquiry into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Skills. The Committee would welcome written submissions from interested parties. Please note the closing date for responses is Friday 25 April 2014. Full details are available via the link below: