For the record

November 30, 2001

Sally Hunt set to be next AUT secretary
Sally Hunt is set to be the next general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, after winning the backing of the union's executive committee as the officially approved candidate.

Ms Hunt is an assistant general secretary responsible for equal opportunities and membership. She can be challenged for the post only by current AUT members, who have until early December to declare their formal candidacy to stand against her in an election.

When Ms Hunt joined the AUT as London regional official in 1995 from a building society union, she criticised fellow union bosses for being "remote and unimaginative".

Tory MP puts himself in university chiefs' shoes   
Conservative education spokesman Alistair Burt is to be the first MP to take part in an experiment aimed at introducing politicians to the realities of running a university. He will spend about three weeks in total over the next year in four institutions that represent different aspects of the sector.

The scheme, set up by Universities UK and the Industry and Parliament Trust, which arranges exchanges and internships for politicians and businessmen, has cross-party support.

MP rubs salt in 'opaque' Labour's wound
Labour MP Austin Mitchell has hit out at the opaque way in which the government is running its review of student funding.

"They announced all these things at Labour Party conference, and now they seem to be walking back from them. I don't think anybody knows when the result of the review is going to be announced. But people have got to make their plans for going to university - they have got to think long term," he said.

Mr Mitchell recently asked education minister Margaret Hodge a series of written questions about student support. He said they were designed to "rub salt in the wound".

Healthy supply of scientists    
Britain has the greatest supply of new graduates in science and engineering in Europe, according to the European Innovation Scoreboard 2001. Britain produces twice as high a percentage of 20 to 29-year-olds with post-secondary education in fields such as mathematics and statistics and computing and engineering as America.

Centre aims to uncover secrets of brain power
A £10 million research centre aimed at improving understanding of how the human brain learns and stores new information opened this week. The Centre for Synaptic Plasticity is a joint venture between the Medical Research Council and Bristol University.

The centre will house one of Europe's largest communities of neuroscientists, including staff from Bristol Royal Infirmary. It will focus on synaptic plasticity, the molecular process in the brain that forms the basis of learning and memory.

Director Graham Collingridge said that understanding this process was crucial to improving knowledge of epilepsy, dementia, schizophrenia and the science of drug addition.

UUK and ACU join forces for e-learning resource   
Universities UK and the Association of Commonwealth Universities are to launch a subscription-based information and analysis service on latest developments in e-learning and related issues. The Observatory on Borderless Education will start operating in January and will introduce subscriptions next summer.

Middlesex staff to strike over job threat
Lecturers at Middlesex University are to strike for a day over the threat of compulsory redundancies. Middlesex members of lecturers' union Natfhe voted to hold a strike on December 5 and to take other industrial action.

Middlesex is reducing staff numbers and rebalancing expenditure between academic schools to boost areas that are popular with students.

The university is "dismayed" at the prospect of strike action. "This is a dangerous time to damage the university's ability to recruit and teach students," a spokesman said.

Hodge funds work skills for clueless students   
Higher education minister Margaret Hodge has set aside £1 million for a programme that includes workplace skills in degree courses.

The scheme is a response to employers' complaints that graduates start work unable to carry out such tasks as writing a business letter. Employers, the Learning and Teaching Support Networks, and professional bodies will be involved in setting up the programme.

Executive set to review SFEFC clout in colleges   
The Scottish Executive is likely to launch a review in the near future of the Scottish Further Education Funding Council's power to intervene in college affairs.

The Scottish Parliament's audit committee this week flagged up a report by the auditor-general that warned of the SFEFC's limited powers to ensure managerial and financial stability in colleges.

Eddie Frizzell, head of the Scottish Executive's enterprise and lifelong-learning department, said he assumed the committee would endorse the auditor-general's recommendation of a review.

Scot OU calls for plan to personalise support 
The Open University in Scotland has called for a new system of personalised support for learners, irrespective of age, prior learning, or where and how they are studying.

In evidence this week to the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee, the OU suggests that learners and institutions should discuss and compare expectations.

It wants to see advice on the cost of courses, regular one-to-one contact with a tutor, and follow-up advice on further learning. It also calls for a statutory right to time off for study for workers who have not reached the level of higher education entrance qualifications.

NHS lifelong learning framework announced
The long-awaited lifelong learning framework for the National Health Service was announced this week.

"Working Together-Learning Together" sets a five-year action plan to introduce a coordinated approach to lifelong learning.

Geek turns out to be a sociable soul   
The image of the internet user as a geeky loner is misplaced.

People who spend long periods of time at their computers are, if anything, more sociable than average, according to Andrew Oswald and Jonathan Gardner, from the University of Warwick.

Their research, carried out for the 18th British Social Attitudes report by the National Centre for Social Research, found that 30 per cent of internet users belonged to a community group compared with less than a quarter of non-users. Internet users were also 50 per cent more likely to be regular church-goers and tended to be more trusting than average.

Among graduates, 72 per cent were personal internet users. Only a tenth of people with no qualifications fell into this group.

Correction 
Last week's feature, 'A past laid out upon a table' by Eugenie Samuel incorrectly stated that Aleksandr Luria pioneered the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

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