For the record

January 4, 2002

Scotland scraps ILAs amid fears of fraud 
Wendy Alexander, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, has axed the individual learning account scheme in Scotland after fraud fears.
She said that after England's decision to close ILAs, a Scottish review had concluded that the risks to public funds of continuing were too great.
ILAs had attracted more than 110,000 learners. The Scottish Executive will consider alternative ways of supporting individual learning, she said.

Lords launches bio and computing inquiries
The House of Lords select committee on science and technology is to launch two new inquiries.
The first, to be chaired by Baroness Walmsley, will look at progress in systematic biology and biodiversity. It will report by April in time for September's Rio plus 10 conference in South Africa. The subcommittee will then look at fighting infections.
The second inquiry, to be chaired by Lord Wade of Chorlton, will examine innovations in computer processors, looking at the research needed to overcome limits on processing speeds using current technologies.

AUT calls for research ethics watchdog
The Association of University Teachers is calling for a commission on research funding amid fears that commercial sponsorship may be interfering with academic freedom.
The AUT wants a figure like the former parliamentary standards watchdog Elizabeth Filkin to head the commission. The union has published a list of what it sees as unethical financial deals between universities and the commercial sector. It says that 12 per cent of university research grants and contracts come from private sources.

Natfhe surveys staff over conditions
Lecturers' union Natfhe is conducting a survey of staff pay, hours, workload and research to provide ammunition for the current unprecedented round of joint union negotiations with university employers.

Students union loses fight for VAT exclusion 
The University of Leicester students union has suffered a crushing defeat in its battle with Customs and Excise over more than £26,000 in VAT levied on soft drinks sold in student bars.
Three Appeal Court judges upheld an earlier ruling that the union, despite playing a vital role in undergraduate life, was "not an integral part" of the university. They decided the union could not benefit from the VAT exemption given to educational institutions. The union also faces legal bills likely to run into thousands of pounds.

Leicester to track extraterrestrial bodies
The national effort to track and study the potential threat from near-Earth objects (Neos) will be based at the national space science centre in Leicester.
The facility will be operational by Easter with support from a consortium that includes Leicester University, Queen's University, Belfast, and Queen Mary University of London.

SQA appoints Ward to lead streamlined board
John Ward, interim chair of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, has been appointed chair of its new streamlined board for the next three years.
New appointments are: Namasiku Liandu, accountancy lecturer at the University of Abertay Dundee and treasurer of the Association of University Teachers Scotland; businessman Tony Cassidy; Judith Gillespie of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council; and teacher Danus Skene.

Funding council may trim role in costing
Universities UK and the Standing Conference of Prinicipals would gain more responsibility for ensuring a transparent approach to costing of teaching and research under a plan developed by the funding council.
The funding council's intention to withdraw from playing an advocacy role in costing and pricing is revealed in a consultation paper sent to all vice-chancellors and principals.

Campaign increases interest in social work
The government's £1.5 million, three-year initiative to encourage more people to enter social work and social care has led to 14,000 calls to an information line and 11,000 visits to the website.
Health minister Jacqui Smith said: "Many people had a very negative view of social workersI It was important to use the campaign to promote the positive work that many social workers carry out."

Medical access effort praised by Hodge
The New Pathway in Medicine initiative, launched by the University of Southampton New College and the university's faculty of medicine, health and biological sciences, has been praised by lifelong learning minister Margaret Hodge for widening access to medicine.
The course will allow people without A levels to become doctors. It will take its first students this year. Students who pass exams at the end of the one-year course will get a place on the university's medical programme.
Bob Fryer, former head of the college, has been appointed chief executive of the National Health Service University.

Nottingham injects £22m into research
Nottingham University has begun a £22 million development programme to boost its research capacity in biosciences, engineering and social sciences.
Nottingham gained research awards worth more than £120 million last year, but it fell seven places in The THES rankings of research assessment exercise scores.

Five skills councils to cover industry needs
Skills and training will receive a boost this year with the creation of the first skills councils covering five industry areas. They will cover retail, land-based industries (including farming and forestry), audiovisual industries, clothing, footwear and textiles and petrochemicals.
The councils will produce labour market and skills intelligence to help identify skills gaps and training opportunities within their sectors. The skills councils will be formed from the national training organisations. The government is providing up to £1 million for each council.

New heart may carry on with old flame
Heart transplant patients may take on personality traits from organ donors. A study has suggested that personal preferences in food, music, art, sex and work can be affected.
Gary Schwartz, director of the University of Arizona human energy systems laboratory, and colleagues at Arizona and the University of Hawaii based the research on interviews with ten donor heart recipients.
They found that in each case, there were between two and five parallels between observed post-surgery changes in the patients and the histories of the donors.
The team suggest in the Journal of Near-Death Studies that the effect may be due to a form of cellular memory.

Library collection grows
The number of university libraries has leapt by 20 per cent in the past five years despite a 7 per cent drop in the number of institutions, due mainly to mergers. The inclusion of Oxford University college libraries in the statistics accounted for some of the rise, but the number of libraries at new universities increased by 7 per cent.


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