Today's news

April 4, 2006

Strike set to close colleges for a week
Further education colleges could be closed for a week next month when lecturers strike over an "insulting" 1.5 per cent pay offer. Members of Natfhe have voted to walk off the job for two days on May 2 and 3, and the lecturers' union has warned that colleges could be closed for most of that week if the planned Unison action on pensions goes ahead. Natfhe said the union had to respond "robustly" before the next round of pay talks. The union was seeking a 7 per cent increase for 2006-07 but said if the dispute was to end, the pay award also needed to address the shortfall in last year's offer. The six trade unions involved in further education met their employers, the Association of Colleges, on March 21, but rejected the 1.5 per cent offer as a "slap in the face".
The Guardian

College plans £1bn science park in downland paradise
A leading university is planning an unprecedented assault on a protected area of countryside in one of the growth areas established by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister. Imperial College London wants to build a £1 billion science park, to be paid for by the building of up to 4,000 new homes, on the campus of Wye College, a former agricultural college. The college and the village of Wye are both inside the Kent Downs area of outstanding natural beauty - an area supposed to have the same protection as a national park - and are surrounded by Grade 1 agricultural land. The village is directly below the downs and within a mile of Wye and Crundale Downs national nature reserve, which is protected for its rare flora.
The Daily Telegraph

Top-up fees 'will hit poor middle-class'
A new breed of "poor middle-class" students will be those who suffer most from the impact of higher tuition fees of up to £3,000 being introduced from this autumn in England, university leaders are predicting. According to the initial findings of new research into the impact of top-up fees, published yesterday, universities are worried that the heaviest financial burden will fall on the middle-class students whose families are just above the threshold for financial support . This means they will be exempt from grants and bursaries, but mandated to pay the full annual fee of up to £3,000.
The Guardian

'Consumer' students more likely to sue for shoddy lecturing
Universities face a spate of compensation claims over shoddy lecturing standards when top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year are introduced this autumn. A study has warned students were more likely to consider themselves as "consumers" and sue if they felt they were not being taught well. The study, for the Higher Education Academy, which gives policy advice to universities, is based on interviews with this year's A-level students. It also includes research into the impact higher fees had in Australia and New Zealand. "Students tend to become more consumer-oriented when they have to pay fees," the study says.
The Independent

Transplant patients receive own cell organs
A milestone has been passed in the field of tissue engineering: the first group of patients has received organs that were grown from their own cells in a laboratory. Scientists hope that laboratory-grown organs may one day help bring to an end the shortage of organs for transplantation, while avoiding the risk of rejection and infection that accompanies a donor organ. Dr Anthony Atala will announce a long-term success today relating to seven children and teenagers who had implanted bladders grown from their own muscle and bladder cells. He is working to grow 20 different tissues and organs, including blood vessels and hearts, in the laboratory.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, New Scientist, The Scotsman, The Independent, Nature

Scotland pioneers designer drugs
Scotland is to lead the world in the development of "personalised drugs", which are expected to revolutionise treatment for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and mental illness. In a unique £50 million collaboration between universities, NHS boards and the pharmaceutical giant Wyeth, the medical records of thousands of Scottish patients will be used to design new treatments tailored to individual patients depending on their own genetic make-up. Jack McConnell, the First Minister, said yesterday that the project will push forward revolutionary research. As well as new drugs, experts believe the techniques being pioneered will help to find better ways of preventing serious conditions, such as heart disease.
The Scotsman

Food companies 'failing to tackle diet crisis'
The world's 25 biggest food companies are failing to take the global crisis in diet seriously and often only change their practices when faced with adverse publicity that could damage their sales, a new study claims. The world leaders of the food industry are accused of a "pathetic" performance on meeting targets set by the World Health Organisation in 2004 to tackle obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Researchers at City University in London, who studied the annual reports, accounts and websites of the companies, said the only factor which seemed to produce action on issues such as salt and fat content was public discontent. Tim Lang, professor of food policy, who led the study, said: "Our findings are worrying.”
The Independent, The Guardian

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