For the record

January 11, 2002

Skilled Afghans needed to rebuild homeland
Afghan academics who have found refuge in the United Kingdom are being encouraged to return home to help with the reconstruction of their country.

The International Organisation for Migration opened a London office this week to encourage volunteers to come forward. The Department for International Development has provided £600,000 backing.

The programme will target skilled individuals who fled the country. Daiva Vilkelyte, the programme's coordinating officer, said a high proportion of these people would be academics who would be able to assist with administrative and educational tasks.

Since the programme was set up in December, 451 applicants have contacted IOM offices across the world. Among them are 176 with expertise in education and training, 125 in administration, 99 in engineering and construction and 94 in health, including biochemists, microbiologists and a professor of medicine.

The IOM will match individuals to appropriate employers in Afghanistan and subsidise salaries, accommodation and travel costs.

The London office can be contacted on 020 7233 0001 or at ops@iomlondon.org .

Blair opens Indo-UK festival of science
The largest gathering of top-level British scientists outside the United Kingdom is being held in India this week and next.
The Indo-UK science festival, which was opened by prime minister Tony Blair (above), includes contributions from Sir Paul Nurse, the recent Nobel laureate; Sir George Radda, chief executive of the Medical Research Council; Harry Griffin, assistant director at the Roslin Institute; Sir Richard Sykes, rector of Imperial College; and David King, chief scientific adviser to the UK government.

The festival intends to promote scientific partnership and cooperation between the UK and India.

Embattled Barnsley to axe 100 more jobs 
Barnsley College, at the centre of a fraud investigation, is to axe more than 100 jobs and may cut its sites from eight to one or two. This follows more than 100 voluntary redundancies a few months ago.

The college, which is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and South Yorkshire fraud squad following allegations of financial irregularities in the 1990s, has to cut £3 million from its budget next year.

The job losses include about 15 teachers and 20 managers.

Undergraduate numbers up
Some 358,000 people started full-time undergraduate courses in autumn 2001, according to figures published today by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. The number of applicants increased by 2.7 per cent and the number of acceptances by 5.4 per cent on the previous year.

De Montfort asked to calm rowdy tenants
Leicester city council has asked De Montfort University to sort out problems with rowdy students. Householders said they were being pelted with junk thrown from the balconies of flats let to students in the city's Eastern Boulevard.
In November, university chiefs had to deal with a string of protests about late-night noise.

A De Montfort spokesman said: "We expect all students, including those living in private rented accommodation, to be sensitive to the feelings of neighbours."

Private sector 'will not pay for doctor training'
The Department of Health denied this week that it had imminent plans to charge the private sector for the hospital training of doctors.

A spokesman confirmed that the DoH was seeking private-sector representation on the Modernisation Board, responsible for implementing the NHS plan, and was expected to produce its first progress report this week.

The spokesman said:"Whether there should be private cash for doctors' training is an idea that may be considered, but there are no definite plans. The priority is to get private-sector involvement in the planning of the NHS through the board."

Edinburgh infectious disease centre launch
Edinburgh University is to follow up its success in infectious disease research with the opening of a multidisciplinary Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Headed by Mark Woolhouse, who advised the government during the foot-and-mouth crisis, its 150-strong team will include staff from the university's schools of medicine and veterinary medicine. There will be links with the city's hospitals and several non-university research institutes.

The university said the centre would be international in outlook but would also focus on diseases relevant to Scotland.

Heart research labs to open next week
University College London will open its new heart research laboratories next week.

Supported by the British Heart Foundation's largest ever single grant - £5.4 million - the laboratories bring together four BHF-funded groups from UCL and the Institute of Child Health, all researching cardiovascular diseases and disorders of the blood vessel wall. The grant went towards refurbishing UCL's Rayne Building and providing £1.5 million of new equipment.

Scots exam reforms 'favour school pupils'
The Association of Scottish Colleges has condemned proposed reforms to Scottish examination assessment for being geared to schools rather than colleges.

The Scottish Executive is consulting on assessment changes to Scotland's new Higher Still exams, which would allow candidates taking National Qualifications either to sit a single final exam or to take only internal assessments.

But Tom Kelly, chief officer of the ASC, said: "Choosing either option would be a retrograde step that would put at risk the interests of students. National Qualifications are not just Highers for school-leavers wanting graded awards to compete for places at university. They are also the starting point for lifelong learning and for involvement in a wide range of qualifications offered in further education colleges."

War of words over 'dumbed-down' series
Academics have attacked the latest television programme on the civil war as soap opera history.

The London Socialist Historians Group said that the first episode of Civil War, screened on Monday this week, dumbed down history. At the same time, the Daily Mail accused the programme of missing the popular line and of over-complicating things.

The programme's presenter, Tristram Hunt, a former adviser to science minister Lord Sainsbury, said: "I must be doing something right."

Codes for social work students announced
The General Social Care Council this week announced its long-awaited codes of conduct and practice for social-care professionals.

The codes are expected to bolster the image of the profession. Students on the new social-work degree, being developed to replace the two-year diploma as a licence to practice, will be expected to comply with the codes on qualification.

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