For the record

April 20, 2001

Minister hits back at AS level flop claims

Education minister Baroness Blackstone has hit back at claims that the new advanced subsidiary qualification is a flop with universities, schools and employers.

She said that AS levels, which pupils sit in year 12, provide admissions tutors with better information about university candidates' likely performance at A level than GCSEs do and they produce university candidates with a broader base of subject knowledge than the traditional three A levels.

Universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, the London School of Economics and Durham, have told The THES that they will still base the majority of their offers on A-level grades.

Job prospects ranked above a social life

Employment prospects have become much more important than a social life in determining how students choose their university.

Of the more than 1,000 students questioned for publishers Hobsons, 83 per cent believed course reputation was important, 79 per cent that university reputation was important and 76 per cent that reputation for graduate employment was important.

Only 21 per cent said the promise of a vibrant social life would sway them, while 9 per cent listened to their friends' suggestions. Parents were an influence in 12 per cent of cases.

Clinton honoured by Queen's University

Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, will next month receive an honorary degree from Queen's University, Belfast, for services to peace in Northern Ireland.

During his first trip to the province in 1995, Mr Clinton visited Queen's and announced a special Fulbright fellowship in conflict resolution.

Lecturers balloted for strike action over pay

More than 40,000 further education college lecturers will be balloted next Wednesday for strike action.

Lecturers' union Natfhe is balloting members, after college employers refused to meet the union's interim claim, made in January, for a £3,000 flat-rate pay rise. If members vote for industrial action, the earliest it could take place is May 22.

A meeting with employers scheduled for May 15 could help to avoid action.

Consortium formed to develop e-nursing

The Royal College of Nursing has chosen three universities with which it will form an e-nursing consortium - Ulster, Leicester and City. The RCN Institute, the college's higher education arm, established the E-Nursing Education Project, or E-Ned, to develop distance and e-learning material.

A report from the National Health Service shared services initiative said that although the primary market would be the NHS, "because of the strength of the brand, (it might be possible) to tap the worldwide education economy".

College of Law signs up for internet services

The College of Law has signed a £500,000-plus deal with learning and business services group AdVal to provide an e-learning option that will eventually cover all its courses for practising and future solicitors and barristers, nationally and internationally.

Nigel Savage, chief executive of the College of Law, said: "Our public-sector competitors have been slow to invest in e-learning but the private sector is moving fast."

£10k bursaries on offer for journalism training

The Wellcome Trust and the Association of British Science Writers are offering £10,000 bursaries to science graduates to help fund postgraduate training in journalism or science communication. Details from the ASBW, 23 Savile Row, London W1X 2NB by May 31.

Leverhulme Trust appoints new director

Richard Brook, professor of materials science at the Uni-versity of Oxford and chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will succeed Barry Supple as the director of the Leverhulme Trust from October.

Computer will map foot-and-mouth disease

The foot-and-mouth outbreak and the human form of CJD are to be mapped using high-tech techniques developed by geographers.

The University of Glamorgan this week held the annual conference for Geographical Information Systems Research UK, which highlighted the many areas that can benefit from computerised mapping. These include identifying poor access to healthcare and pockets of high crime.

Gary Higgs, conference co-organiser, said: "Geographical information systems software can be used to map everything from indicators of social exclusion to levels of certain illnesses in particular areas."

Unions call for reform of Scottish governors

The Scottish Trades Union Congress has called for the radical reform of boards of governors in new universities.

Delegates at the annual congress in Aberdeen backed a motion by Aberdeen Trades Council condemning the Labour government's failure to tackle the issue.

The boards of governors of Scottish central institutions, now Scotland's new universities, were dissolved more than 15 years ago and replaced by new boards "whose membership could be drawn almost exclusively from a Scottish Office approved list".

Sheep learn to look before they eat

Just when it seemed things could not get much worse for sheep, scientists have revealed the dining behaviour at the less sanitary end of the ovine menu.

Alan Pike, senior lecturer in Aberdeen University's department of zoology, and his colleagues challenge the idea that sheep are undiscerning eaters in a paper entitled: "Strategies for the avoidance of faeces by grazing sheep", in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

They found parasite-infested sheep tended to steer clear of grass growing around infected faeces, while the uninfested were not so fussy.

Training staff boosts profits

Businesses could see profits rise if they invested an extra £50 a week in staff training. A Learning and Skills Council survey of 800 small and medium-sized companies showed this week that firms that invested about £4,850 a year in training say profits rise by 6 per cent. Firms that invested a further £2,500 saw profits rise by 13 per cent.


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