For the record

September 14, 2001

Business studies top of the pops

Business and management studies is the most popular subject at degree level for full-time students starting this autumn, according to data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. All five of the most popular subjects have increased their dominance over less popular options, recording rises of between 7 per cent and 12 per cent.

Hefce makes £33m loss despite reserves

The Higher Education Funding Council for England made a loss of £33 million in the period to March 31 2001, according to its annual report published this week. The deficit occurred despite the funding council sitting on about £30 million allocated for university places that failed to materialise. Running costs were up 4.7 per cent to £12 million and grants to institutions up 5.7 per cent to £4.4 billion.

AS levels to be streamlined

Plans to streamline the AS levels to be taken by pupils next summer have been welcomed by education secretary Estelle Morris. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has proposed that pupils should sit three exams in a single three-hour session. The QCA is due to complete its review into Curriculum 2000 by December.

Foot-and-mouth inquiry committee selected

The Royal Society has named the 15 members of the committee to be chaired by Sir Brian Follett, below, to carry out its inquiry into the scientific aspects of infectious livestock diseases in the wake of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Among these are Fred Brown (US department of agriculture at Plumb Island Animal Disease Centre), Roger Eddy (senior vice-president, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) and Karl Linklater (principal, Scottish Agricultural College).

There are also practising vets and representatives from the Food Standards Agency and the National Farmers Union.

Engineering Council chief resigns

The director general of the Engineering Council, Malcolm Shirley, has resigned a month before the council is to be re-established as the Engineering and Technology Board.

Andrew Ramsey, director for engineering regulation, will be acting director general. The ETB will cover all aspects of engineering, not just the profession.

Welsh social work students 'need help'

The National Assembly for Wales has said support for students on proposed degree-standard social work courses in the principality should be aligned with those already announced for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But in the meantime, the assembly said hardship being experienced by self-funded non-graduate students should be alleviated by contributions to their travel costs.

Students with bursaries from the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work and the Training Organisation for the Personal Social Services already have their travel costs paid.

Standard guidelines for PhD training issued

A draft of a set of guidelines designed to standardise postgraduate and PhD training has been sent to vice-chancellors and university heads of training.

The proposals, created by a group of representatives from the six research councils plus the Arts and Humanities Research Board, concentrate on standards for research training and transferable courses.

Universities have complained that each council has different guidelines for making submissions for student funding and research work.

Researcher accused of GM-chicken data theft

A researcher at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh has been accused by her former employer of stealing data on genetically modified chickens.

AviGenics has filed a lawsuit in the US courts in Georgia, alleging that Helen Sang took research from an AviGenics project that enabled the Roslin Institute, in conjunction with US biotech firm Viragen, to create a chicken that produced a certain protein in its eggs.

The institute said it would be "vigorously defending the action".

Minister welcomes research framework

The new national framework for education research was welcomed this week by adult skills minister John Healey.

Under the framework, a panel will be established to predict future research needs. Researchers will also develop better ways of identifying priorities. A funders' forum will be set up to ensure value for money.

Researcher into paedophilia accused

Glasgow University is investigating allegations that a postgraduate student has misused his position as a researcher into paedophilia.

Claims surfaced last weekend that Richard Yuill, who has completed almost two years of a sociology PhD on sexual relationships between men and boys, has been in email correspondence with convicted paedophiles.

Glasgow secretary Dugald Mackie had ordered an investigation. The university has defended paedophilia as a research topic.

Scots students call for unified sector

The National Union of Students Scotland is calling for a single further and higher education funding council for a unified tertiary sector, to ensure equitable support for further education.

It also wants to see the further and higher education funding councils given planning powers.

The union's proposals come in a submission to the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee, which has launched an inquiry into lifelong learning.

Eurostar loo mystery too hard to flush out

Cambridge University scientists have been challenged by a reader of the chemistry department's magazine Chem@Cam to solve a curious chemical conundrum.

"What on earth is the liquid used in the toilets of Eurostar trains?" pleaded a desperate Wilson Flood in the latest issue.

Dr Flood described the substance as grey with a metallic sheen. He said it did not smell of any non-aqueous solvent, seemed to be denser than water and appeared to form an inverted meniscus like mercury.

John Emsley, editor of Chem@Cam, admits that no one has come up with an answer.

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