For the record

June 22, 2001

Queen's honour sparks diplomatic row

George Bain, Canadian-born vice-chancellor of Queen's University, Belfast, is at the centre of a diplomatic row after being awarded a knighthood in the Queen's birthday honours list without Canadian government approval.

Downing Street has admitted there was a "regrettable misunderstanding". Canadian prime minister, Jean Chretien, prot-ested furiously he had not been consulted over honours for Professor Bain and Ottawa-based billionaire Terence Matthews, who was born in Wales.

Professor Bain said in a global economy it was rather restricting to say any country should not be allowed to award another country's citizens any honour "especially when they have dual citizenship and are as much a citizen of Britain as of Canada".

Call for world ban on human cloning

The Royal Society this week called on scientists to agree to a world ban on human cloning in order to prevent abuses.

The society is concerned that the House of Lords' go-ahead in January for therapeutic cloning will allow foreign scientists to pick up on United Kingdom techniques and clone humans. Outlawing human reproductive cloning will improve public confidence in science, it says.

Chair raises fashion's academic standing

The London Institute is looking for a professor of fashion after securing its first endowed chair from the legacy of fashion entrepreneur Rick Hopkins. The Rootstein Hopkins chair of fashion will be based at the London College of Fashion. The college says it will "elevate fashion education further into the world of academia".

Sainsbury foresees positive reforms

Newly reappointed science minister Lord Sainsbury made his first appearance since the election at the opening of Imperial College London's Genetic Therapies Centre.

He said that the government was determined to build on the initiatives of its first term.

UK lags in staff investment

United Kingdom spending on university staff is among the lowest in the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. UK universities spent only 57 per cent of total expenditure on staff in 1998, compared with a 76 per cent average, according to Education at a Glance 2001 , out last week.

A voter's heart is where the home is

Academic theories about the primacy of Westminster elections have been shaken by "intriguing" results from a study by David McCrone of Edinburgh University's sociology department.

Speaking at an "election special" conference run by Edinburgh's governance of Scotland forum, Professor McCrone said two Scottish seats had held by-elections for the Scottish Parliament on the same day as the general election.

More people voted for the by-election candidate, "positively abstaining" from voting for the Westminster candidate, he said.

Blair barracked on debt in Commons

An education bill aimed at overhauling secondary education and a bill that will strengthen the regulation of the health professions were announced in this week's Queen's speech.

In the ensuing debate, Liberal Democrats attacked prime minister Tony Blair over low public-sector pay and high student debt. Tuition fees were described as an "abomination".

University partners play big local role

Universities are driving forces in regional development and are even more potent when they work together, says a report to a Universities UK conference, supported by The THES , to be held in London next week.

The report, by David Charles of Newcastle University's centre for urban and regional development studies, reveals that universities play a much more crucial role than previously acknowledged in a region's culture, business, competitiveness and health. The conference will hear nine regional reports, as well as the overview.

Anonymous donor aids poor London students

University College London is set to receive a gift of £100,000 from an anonymous benefactor, to be used to improve access for students. The money may provide bursaries for student accommodation, possibly covering the whole of a degree course and valid for both university-owned and private housing.

Sizer retires from Scots funding council

John Sizer, joint chief executive of the Scottish Higher and Further Education Funding Councils, is to retire in December. Professor Sizer has headed the Scottish Higher Education Funding council since its inception in 1992, taking on the same post in the further education funding council when set up in 1999.

Tuition fees may breach Euro law

Charging tuition fees in England and Wales but not in Scotland could be a breach of European Union law. A 4,000-signature petition to the European Parliament's petitions committee from Nottingham University students has prompted calls for an inquiry.

Article 12 of the EU Treaty outlaws discrimination on grounds of nationality. Tory MEP Roy Perry, a petitions committee member, said:

"The UK government has a case to answer."

Views sought on the NHS University

The Department of Health is drawing up a consultation document on the proposed NHS University and seeking views from staff, the NHS Confederation, the British Association of Medical Managers, staff associations, the royal colleges and education providers. The university aims to provide a more coherent approach to training and education.

Russians seek solace in small screen untruth

Russians love television but prefer it to portray a positive image rather than tell the truth.

This surprise finding comes from an 18-month study by Glasgow University academics Sarah Oates, Stephen White and John Dunn, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Russians said they enjoyed western game shows, such as Who wants to be a millionaire? and a version of Wheel of fortune . But they were distressed by the portrayal of violence and chaos in their society than by the biased information they received. Almost a fifth of the respondents felt television was better in the days of Soviet censorship.








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