For the record

July 6, 2001

Asbestos scare for Warwick University
Warwick University had an asbestos scare when builders discovered the dangerous fibres in its physics building. Tests showed asbestos was present, although there were no fibres in the air and the building has been made safe.

Nottingham offers £1,000 study incentive
Nottingham University is offering £1,000-a-year scholarships to local undergraduates who are the first in their family to apply for a place in higher education. The scheme is designed to complement the government's Opportunity Bursaries, which provide students from low-income families with £1,000 in the first year of an undergraduate degree and £500 in the second and third years.

Scheme aims to widen access to legal posts
Students from ethnic minority backgrounds are being given a chance to succeed as lawyers under the Diversity in Law scheme, backed by City firms and £77,000 of Department for Education and Skills money. Education minister Margaret Hodge, who launched the scheme, said: "Over one-third of law undergraduates are from ethnic minority backgrounds and yet they make up only 7 per cent of practising solicitors and barristers. This has to change."

Full-time students gain extra childcare cash
An extra £2.7 million will be spent on childcare for full-time students. The upper limit will be raised from £100 to £135 a week for students with one child, and from £150 to £200 a week for students with two or more children. The means-tested grant will pay 85 per cent of childcare costs up to these limits during term time and the short vacations and 70 per cent during long vacations.

OU scheme threatens to overload pupils
From September, gifted sixth-formers in the Northeast will be encouraged to enrol on Open University courses alongside their AS and A-level studies.

The courses in technology, maths, science, French, German and Spanish will be available to students at the 100 specialist schools that focus on the fields of technology, arts, languages and sport. Pupils will attend tutorials with other OU students in their communities. Teachers, parents and students have, however, expressed concern that many pupils are overloaded with work. 

Darlington College wins online army contract
After two years of negotiations, Darlington College of Technology has clinched a multimillion-pound deal to provide support for online learning by army personnel. The project, which will be delivered through the University for Industry's learndirect network, with the Ministry of Defence, will provide administrative and professional support for 50 proposed learning centres. 

Internet programme is missing the mark
Government programmes to improve access to the internet are not addressing the real issue, according to a report published by the Fabian Society this week.

The report found that the poor and excluded cannot see the point of using the internet because much of its content is aimed at affluent consumers. The government should produce content for the socially excluded, while encouraging people to create content for themselves, the report recommends.

While 51 per cent of British adults use the internet, only 23 per cent in unskilled occupations use it, and the figure drops to 19 per cent among people living on estates with high unemployment, according to the Department for Education and Skills.

Adult skills minister John Healey said: "Improving access to the internet and other information and communications technologies remains a key government priority."

In-service teaching courses under fire
A fifth of in-service postgraduate training courses for teachers are "in need of significant improvement", according to Ofsted. The inspectorate's overview report on these courses - which are funded by the Teacher Training Agency - found that some 80 per cent were of good or very good quality. But a significant proportion failed to reach this standard on one or more of the inspection criteria.

Institutions running one or more courses that need improvement include Brunel University, Goldsmiths College, London, the University of Birmingham and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Scotland sets sights on knowledge initiative
Universities Scotland, the body that represents Scotland's universities and higher education colleges, is calling for the Scottish Executive to stimulate Scotland's knowledge economy by setting up a research escalator. This would increase the resources made available to higher education research by 20 per cent each year for three years.

Universities Scotland also wants to see improved links between Scottish research and industry. It is calling for an increase in the Scottish Enterprises Proof of Concept Fund, which aims to get discoveries out of the laboratory and into the marketplace.

Engineering council names chief executive
John O'Reilly, head of the department of electronic and electrical engineering at University College London, has been named chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Professor O'Reilly, 54, holder of the chair of telecommunications at UCL, is also director of UCL@Adastral.Park, a technology research centre based at British Telecom's research and technology facility at Adastral Park, Ipswich. He will take up the four-year post in October. 

Goldsmiths establishes musical stepping stone
Goldsmiths College, London, is proving it has soul by offering a prefoundation programme in music to experienced musicians with few or no qualifications. Students keen to develop soul, jazz and gospel skills will be taught techniques of improvisation, rhythm, pitch control and interpretation as well as harmony, tone and texture.

The course will also provide an opportunity to progress to more advanced music courses up to degree level.

Courses snub middle-aged
Statistics indicatethat a woman aged 20-22 is twice as likely to get on a postgraduate teacher-training course as a woman aged 51 or over. While only 21 per cent of the younger group find themselves "unplaced", this rises to 47 per cent for the older applicants. The Graduate Teacher Training Register figures cover entrants in 2000.


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