Nearly a Third of University Academics Originate From Outside the UK

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Date released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency has revealed that nearly a third of university academics in the UK are from outside of the country.

Almost one in five university academics are from a country within the European Union, which has caused concerns for university leaders worried about retaining and recruiting staff.

Universities have warned they depend on be able to recruit highly-mobile international staff and students, with the latest figures from UCAS showing a decline in applications from the EU.

The data from HESA shows that 29% of academic staff are from outside the UK and in some cases, such as engineering and technology, non-UK academics account for 42% of staff.

In maths, physics and biology, 38% of staff are non-UK, with the majority of these coming from other EU countries, while the percentage of non-UK staff in the humanities was recorded at 35%.

When the education select committee took evidence from universities about the possible impact of Brexit, they heard concerns that talented and sought-after mathematicians from the EU could move elsewhere.

The University of Cambridge professor, Catherine Barnard, told MPs the university had seen a 14% decline in applications this year from EU students and raised concerns about a risk of perceived anti-immigrant sentiment.


Fast-Track University Courses Proposed by Government

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The government is to introduce fast-track university degrees with higher annual fees.

Under the plans, the two-year degrees will cost the same as a traditional three-year course, meaning annual fees will be higher.

Ministers are expected to put forward a bill to lift the current £9,000 cap on tuition fees so universities can charge higher annual rates associated with courses with a reduced length.

The Department for Education stressed the fast-track degrees will carry the same weight as the current undergraduate model.

Under the proposals, universities will be able to charge more than £13,000 a-year for those courses that are cut down to two years and will only apply to institutions in England. Annual fees for four-year courses being delivered in three years could rise to £12,000 a year.

The increased fees will be limited to those courses being accelerated and delivered in fewer years, with universities having to prove they're investing the same resources into the fast-track students.

Education ministers have suggested the reduced course time-frame will appeal to those looking to get into, or return to, the workplace or those looking to cut down on living and accommodation costs.

Those partaking in the new system will forgo the long summer and winter breaks in exchange for the shorter course duration.

The proposal to lift the cap on tuition fees for fast-track students is part of a range of changes set to be included into the higher education and research bill.

According to University minister Jo Johnson, the new bill will provide students with new and flexible ways of learning.

Commenting on the plans, he said: "Students are crying out for more flexible courses, modes of study which they can fit around work and life, shorter courses that enable them to get into and back into work more quickly and courses that equip them with the skills that the modern workplace needs."


Bennett Construction Wins Major Dublin Project

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Global Student Accommodation (GSA) has appointed Bennett Construction as the contractor for a 591-bed student accommodation scheme in Dublin.

Situated in Brunswick Street, Dublin, the development is expected to create around 650 new jobs during its construction. A further 75 full time jobs will be created once the site is fully operational.

The purpose-built student accommodation will be operated by GSA and will come equipped with study and leisure spaces along with a gm, games room and cinema.

The site will also include 3,700 square metres of retail space.

Construction is due for completion by the middle of 2018, with the first set of students occupying the site from autumn of that year.

Commenting on the development, Aaron Bailey, Head of Construction Europe for GSA, said: "We are delighted to be commencing work on the Brunswick Street site and look forward to welcoming the first students through the doors next year.

"We are committed to supporting jobs for the local community and worked with the Grangegorman Development Agency to ensure full compliance with the local employment charter."

GSA has already committed EUR 250m worth of investment into student accommodation in Dublin.


Unite Acquires Development Site in Manchester

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Unite Group has acquired a development site in Manchester, subject to planning permission.

Situated in Manchester city centre and close to the University of Manchester, once complete the development is expected to accommodate around 450 students.

The acquisition of the site is expected to cost around £41 million and deliver a development yield in line with the group's target level of 8.0-8.5%.

The development will be funded internally and is anticipated to be delivered in time for the 2020 academic year.

The acquisition by Unite takes their total development pipeline to around 7,500 beds and if given the go ahead, will increase Unite's Manchester portfolio to 2,800 beds.

Commenting on the acquisition Richard Simpson, Group Property Director, said: "This acquisition extends our high-quality development programme in a strong regional location where there is growing demand for purpose built student accommodation. Manchester is a thriving student city which we expect to continue to attract high numbers of students. We look forward to working with the local Universities to help meet the strong demand for high-quality student accommodation."


Durham Accommodation Snapped up by Tier One Capital

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Tier One Capital has acquired a Durham student accommodation scheme in a deal worth £2.3m.

Purchased on behalf of developers, the Newcastle based company is deploying cash it raised within its TOC Property Backed Lending Trust which was floated last month.

Upon its flotation at the end of January it raised £17.3m, with a large proportion of the funds to be put towards 10 initial projects.

The first is the acquisition of the 34-bed student accommodation scheme at St Hilds, Durham, for Ryka Developments.

A spokesman for Ryka Developments said: "The forthcoming expansion of the Durham University campus in the immediate vicinity of St Hilds adds further attraction to an asset capable of producing long-term income for the next twenty years and beyond."

Set up in 2012, Tier One Capital has developed into an investment company supporting private and corporate clients, charities and trusts with a range of services including cash management, investments, estate planning and corporate finance.

The company's growth has recently surged with the launch of its TOC Property Backed Lending Trust, which it hopes to grow into a £500 million fund, with the money raised to be invested into the region’s growing property market.


Unite Group Reports Increase in Earnings for 2016

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Unite Group has reported a 24% increase in EPRA earnings for the year ending December 2016.

The group reported a 24% rise in adjusted EPRA earnings to £61.3 million versus £49.5m reported a year earlier.

Profit before tax was reported at £201.4 million for the 12-month period, which includes property revaluations of £136.3 million. This represents a decline on the previous year where profit before tax was recorded at £388.4 million, with £324.6 million attributed to property revaluations.

As a result, EPS came in at 101.3p versus 164.2p in 2015 due to the lower level of revaluation surplus as a result of yield compression in 2015.

During the period the group maintained a portfolio of 49,000 beds at a value of £4.3 billion, an increase on the 46,000 beds it held at the end of 2015.

For 2017 Unite is expecting its rental growth to be in the region of 3.0-3.5%, supported by its relationships with universities and student number growth. However, this represents a compression on the 3.8% growth in rental income which it recorded for the 2016-17 academic year.

The group has maintained a positive outlook, with 75% of its bed spaces being reserved for the 2017-18 academic year, up from the 67% reported at the same time a year earlier. For the 2016-17 academic year occupancy rates stand at 98%.

Unite has increased the proportion of beds let to Universities with 58% or rooms now under nomination agreements, up by 5,000 beds over the past three years. It expects this to remain around this level in the future. The company also noted that rents on nominations are around 5% lower than their direct let equivalents but sees opportunities to close this discount in the coming years.

With a development portfolio of 7,000 beds, in addition to its expected rental growth, the group expects it could add 15-20p to earnings over the next few years.

Despite UCAS recently reporting a fall in the number of EU domiciled students applying to study at university for the 2017-18 academic year, as of the January 15 deadline, Unite does not expect Brexit to significantly impact student numbers and will continue to focus on its relationships with high to mid-ranked Universities.

Commenting on the results, Chief Executive of Unite Group, Richard Smith, said: "These are another excellent set of results that reflect the quality of our people, properties and service execution that sets us apart in our sector. Looking forward, we will maintain the quality of our portfolio through development and also strategic acquisitions such as our recent purchase of Aston Student Village, our first on-campus. Students and Universities remain our core focus and we will continue to invest in our operational capabilities, providing excellent service and ensuring consistently high satisfaction levels. This strategy, plus the ongoing strength of UK Higher Education, student numbers and the demand for beds means we are confident in further growth."


Plagiarising Students Could Face a Criminal Record under Proposed Plans

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Under plans being proposed by the government, those university students who purchase essays online could face fines and a criminal record.

To combat the growing essay writing industry, the government is looking to introduce tough new rules amid concerns the quality of a British university degree is under threat.

Recent reports suggest as many as 20,000 students enrolled at British universities are paying thousands of pounds for bespoke essays in order to obtain degrees.

The Department of Education has announced it is in consultation with universities over how to crackdown on cheating students.

The DfE is currently consulting on a variety of proposals with higher education bodies, ranging from fines, academic blacklists and even criminal records for students found submitting professionally written essays.

Commenting on the matter, a spokeswoman for DfE said a change in the law was something that could be considered in the future.

The new guidance is due to be implemented in September so it coincides with the start of the next academic year.

Commenting on the announcement, Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: "This form of cheating is unacceptable and every university should have strong policies and sanctions in place to detect and deal with it.

"Essay mill websites threaten to undermine the high-quality reputation of a UK degree so it is vital that the sector work together to address this in a consistent and robust way."

Although universities use anti-plagiarism software to detect when academic texts have been copied, students submitting bespoke essays as their own can circumvent the software in place, meaning examiners are powerless to prevent foul play.


Paris Attempts to Lure British Universities Overseas

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Oxford University has denied claims it is to open an overseas campus in response to Brexit.

The statement was released after reports emerged that French officials had spoken to senior staff at Oxford to propose a new 'satellite' base in Paris, with construction beginning as early as 2018.

However, Oxford University has dismissed the claims and a spokesman from the university said: "The university has received several constructive and helpful proposals from European colleagues since the Brexit vote. We are not, however, pursuing the model of a campus overseas."

It's understood informal talks have been held with several other UK universities, including Cambridge and Warwick, as part of an active campaign to lure British jobs to Paris.

The talks are said to have taken place in response to the UK's decision to leave the EU, as a campus in Paris, with French legal status, would allow a university to continue to benefit from EU funding.

The proposals suggest the creation of joint research laboratories and degree courses between British and French universities, on top of plans to relocate existing degrees and study programmes.

In addition, French officials are supposedly offering several institutions the chance to open a campus on the site of a development at the University of Paris-Seine to the north of Paris. The land would therefore effectively be free, although they would need to cover the costs associated with building labs and lecture theatres.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, a former director-general of the French ministry of education and now managing director of the highly regarded Essec Business School, confirmed that talks between a number of universities and the French government were taking place.

Mr Blanquer also suggested that although the UK government has said it will try to strike a deal to ensure British universities continue to participate in EU research projects, in the medium term they will inevitably be squeezed out.


Cambridge University Could Ditch Class List Tradition

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Cambridge University may have to drop its long-standing tradition of posting students' exam results outside Senate House under new data protection laws.

The 250-year old tradition has been taking place in Cambridge since 1748, but in May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect, hardening existing data protection laws.

The GDPR may make it illegal for the university to continue publishing details of its students under its current scheme and the university has confirmed they are considering other options, such as an opt-in arrangement.

A spokesman for the university said: "Under new Data Protection legislation, which is due to come into force in May 2018, greater emphasis is placed on an individual's right to choose how their data is collected and used, and on an organisation's responsibility to reflect this in its policies and procedures.

"The University is currently considering the potential effects of this legislation - including the possibility that the public display of class lists may change to an opt-in system - but not decisions have yet been made."

At the end of last year, university students voted to retain the traditional class lists, with university fellows voting the same way the following month.


Council to Decide on Cambridge Student Accommodation Policy

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Student accommodation in Cambridge is to be discussed this week with Cambridge City Council to decide on whether to allow proposed changes to the emerging Local Plan.

A report commissioned for the city council has suggested an increasing need for student accommodation in the city.

Although the report revealed that the University of Cambridge accommodates much of its students in university-owned housing, Anglia Ruskin University and other institutions have very little directly-owned accommodation. As a result, students are more likely to live in privately owned halls, shared housing or the family home.

The council's assessment of the study's findings is that the current strategy for student accommodation is largely appropriate but could be improved to address the need for market and social housing, as well as student accommodation.

The report said: "It is recognised that this is a fluid situation, and that there is likely to be a continuing strong supply of new student housing in the city, prompted by the financial attractiveness of this form of development.

However, in part this attractiveness arises out of the level of unsatisfied demand for such accommodation. At this stage, the evidence falls short of proving that there does not remain a need for purpose-built student housing, especially to improve the choice and opportunities for ARU students."

Due to the study, the council will propose some changes to the Local Plan, including the need to confirm that all student accommodation schemes are formally tied to a particular educational institution, which has specific accommodation needs.

The report also proposes the creation of a working group made up from council officers and representatives of higher education institutions, in order to monitor student accommodation and work together.