For the record

January 18, 2002

Survey shows alarming level of racism
Almost a third of ethnic minority academics report that they have been racially harassed at work, according to a survey of 10,000 members of the Association of University Teachers.

Out of about 450 ethnic minority respondents, 121 reported that they had been victims of race-related harassment, and 107 said they had been treated unfairly when applying for jobs and promotions.

The survey found that four out of ten "non-white" staff, compared to just a tenth of white staff, believe that British higher education is "institutionally racist".

Special measures after Belfast postman killing
Special treatment for university applicants from Belfast is under way after reaction to the murder of 20-year-old Daniel McColgan (below), a Catholic postman, disrupted postal services.

A spokeswoman for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said that the postmarks on applications received after this week's deadline of January 15 would be checked and special consideration given to those from Belfast.

Students in Northern Ireland are being urged to attend today's anti-sectarian rallies following the murder.

Aberdeen imaging centre gets €1 million
Aberdeen University's centre for biomedical functioning imaging has won €1 million (£650,000) from the European Union to investigate how medical imaging can lead to the early detection of disease. The grant will allow European research groups to come to Scotland.

Scots students set up lobby group to be heard
The students' associations of Scotland's ancient universities have established themselves as a lobby group after failing to win a hearing from the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee.

Peter McColl, convenor of the new Coalition of Higher Education Students in Scotland (Chess), and vice-president of Edinburgh University's students' association, said: "In the past, representatives from our institutions have been denied giving oral evidence at the committee. The reasons given were that we didn't have a constitution, elected chair and formal meetings, so we set about rectifying that."

Four of Chess's five members - Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews - are not members of the National Union of Students Scotland. The fifth member, Aberdeen University, is a member of both Chess and NUSS.

Women pull ahead by degree
Students gained 470,300 higher education qualifications in 2000-01, up by just over 2 per cent on 1999-00. The number gaining first degrees stayed the same at 256,300. The number of women gaining first degrees rose by nearly 2 per cent while the number of men fell by nearly 2 per cent. 55 per cent of first-degree graduates were women.

Report could fuel criticism of A levels
Qualifications chiefs should improve their procedures for monitoring A-level standards, a report was expected to recommend today.

Eva Baker, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles who chaired the report, said that it might fuel the arguments of those who say standards have plummeted as more and more students pass A levels.

The report results from a one-year study into procedures used by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

University opens drugs research centre
Queen's University, Belfast, has opened a £3.5 million pharmaceutical research centre. It is funded by a donation from the McClay Trust, a charity set up to support research in Queen's schools of chemistry and pharmacy.

Allen McClay, founder of Belfast-based pharmaceutical company Galen Holdings, established the trust after the company's successful flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 1997.

York residents fight student block plan
Plans for a seven-storey block of flats to accommodate 300 students at York's revamped St John College have run into opposition from residents.

They fear that the block, on the banks of the River Foss, would dwarf local homes and that the increase in the population would cause traffic congestion.

Engineering skill deficit tackled
The Institution of Electrical Engineers has joined with the Higher Education Funding Council for England, industry and academia to tackle the lack of skills that employers complain of in electronics graduates.

From 2004, courses at University College London, Umist and Bristol University will incorporate "problem-based learning" to prepare students for lifelong learning. The first 190 electronics graduates from the pilot should emerge in 2005.

Post mortem code after body parts scandal
The Department of Health has published a draft code of practice setting out standards for communicating with families over hospital and coroners' post mortem examinations, model consent forms and an interim statement on the law on human tissue after the Alder Hey inquiry. A consultation on proposed changes in the law is expected shortly.

Genetics knowledge parks link specialists
A network of Genetics Knowledge Parks will bring together scientists, clinicians and industrial researchers in centres of clinical and scientific excellence to improve the diagnosis, treatment and counselling of patients.

The six parks, announced this week by the Department of Health, will be based in Oxford, Cambridge, London, the Northwest, Newcastle and Wales.

They will share the £10 million Genetics Knowledge challenge fund and £5 million from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Lords voice concerns over genetics report
The House of Lords debated its science and technology select committee's report on human genetic databases this week.

While welcoming the proposals, they voiced concern about the lack of bioinformation specialists in universities and the problems raised by the Data Protection Act.

BioBank UK, a collaboration between the Department of Health, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, is proposing to sign up 500,000 volunteers aged between 45 and 69, gathering medical and lifestyle information as well as DNA samples to enable research into how multi-factoral diseases develop in adults.

Birth weight is linked to thinking skills
People born in three Edinburgh hospitals in the 1920s are being asked to take part in an Edinburgh University study to explore links between low birth weight and its effect on thinking skills in later life.

Susan Shenkin, of the psychology department, said researchers had recently discovered detailed health records for babies born between 1921 and 1926.

She said: "We do not know whether birth weight might be one of the factors that affect how 'thinking skills' change over a lifetime. We hope that by studying this group of people, we can help to understand why some people find their memories worsen and their mental abilities slow as they grow older."


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