Today's news

March 18, 2005

Universities warned to maintain teaching standards
Universities must not cut corners in teaching students in their pursuit of top research ratings, the government's higher education watchdog warned this week. As the details of 2006 tuition fees and bursaries were published for English universities, Peter Williams, the head of the Quality Assurance Agency, said teaching would suffer if universities devoted all their energies to boosting research in the run-up to the next research assessment exercise.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement March 18

Lecturers threaten legal action over Brunel redundancies
The Association of University Teachers is threatening legal action against Brunel University if some staff are forced to take compulsory redundancy under plans to boost the institution's research output. The university confirmed today that 50 academics who are not considered to be "research active" were to be made redundant. The majority (44) will take voluntary redundancy, but six could be compulsory if agreements between the university and staff cannot be reached.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement March 18

Top-up fees 'threat to Scots education'
Scotland's reputation for world-class higher education could come under threat from the long-term impact of top-up tuition fees south of the Border, a senior funding official warned yesterday. Roger McClure, the chief executive of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) said students may start to "vote with their feet" by going elsewhere if the perception grew that Scots universities were financially worse off than their English counterparts. His comments came as SHEFC set out how much public money each university in Scotland will receive over the next financial year.
The Scotsman

'Alcoholism is in our genes'
The amount of alcoholic drinks that people regularly consume may be related to differences in genetic make-up, experts say. Lead researcher Dr Marcus Munafo, at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, said: "Our study suggests that there's a genetic basis to certain kinds of behaviour, including alcohol consumption, which may be important in influencing whether people are at an increased risk of alcohol dependence.
The Daily Mail

Nasa cuts threaten future of US aeronautics
The future of aeronautics research in the US is in serious jeopardy due to budget cuts, experts told a congressional committee on Wednesday. At Nasa, aeronautics research includes work on new aircraft designs, air traffic control and aviation safety. Over the next five years, Nasa has proposed shutting down several wind tunnels and reducing its aeronautics workforce by about 2000 employees."I am sorry to say that these cuts are having - and will have - serious implications on the ability of Nasa to continue to play a relevant role in aeronautics in the future," said Meyer Benzakein, chairman of aerospace engineering at Ohio State University.
New Scientist

Poet is write man for university post
An award-winning Edinburgh poet and author is the latest writer-in-residence at Edinburgh University. Brian McCabe said that he was "honoured" to be given the job, through which he will offer guidance to students and lecturers. The university has appointed the poet, novelist and short story writer as its new writer in residence just months after the influential post faced an uncertain future because of funding cuts. The appointment of former university student McCabe makes the post secure for the next two years.
The Scotsman

Scientists create 'black holes' on Earth
Thanks to a legion of science fiction stories, black holes are easily among the most terrifying objects in the universe. It is easy to understand why: these mysterious collapsed stars suck in and destroy everything around them. Get too close and nothing in the universe could save you from their clutches. Fortunately, real black holes only exist in the depths of space, too far from the Earth to be of much concern. But an American physicist has put forward the idea that an experiment here on Earth regularly creates objects that bear a striking resemblance to real black holes, albeit tiny ones.
The Guardian

French classics enter cyberspace
President Chirac is expected to ask Germany, Spain and Russia today to join France in a “counter-attack” on American culture by making the collected works of continental literature available online. M Chirac opened the latest front in France’s cultural war on Wednesday, when he ordered the Culture Ministry and the National Library to counter Google Print, a project by the leading - American - search engine which will make 15 million books in English available on the internet.
The Times

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