For the record

February 15, 2002

Fears may force change to Scots information bill
Scottish ministers are expected to amend their radical freedom of information bill after fears that it could threaten academic research and provoke a brain drain. Higher education institutions have warned that the Scottish bill risks forcing them to disclose incomplete research.

Universities Scotland director David Caldwell stressed that his association strongly supported the principle of the bill, since higher education was founded on making knowledge and information as widely available as possible. But he said the proposed legislation could significantly harm the sector by forcing researchers to disclose information unless commercial interests were "substantially prejudiced".

British Museum buys online lecture service
The British Museum has signed up with Fathom, an online provider of lectures, seminars and performances. London's Natural History Museum, the British Library, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are already partners.

Fathom was created two years ago by Columbia University in the United States - which has committed millions of dollars to the project - and the London School of Economics.

Increase in loans for students overseas
All students spending a year abroad as part of their studies will be able to borrow more money to cover their living costs from next year.

Undergraduates on exchange programmes as part of their courses, as well as those who voluntarily spend a year abroad, on the Erasmus scheme for instance, will be able to borrow a minimum of £4,770 compared with the current £3,905. Those spending time in Japan and Switzerland will be able to borrow £5,670.

Under current rules only students compelled to spend a year abroad as part of their courses are eligible for the supplementary loan and travel expenses.

Online help for bidders for £8 million funding
Researchers seeking partners to put together bids for a slice of the £8 million that the Economic and Social Research Council is offering for teaching and learning projects can now advertise via the web.

The Learning and Teaching Support Network is acting as broker to bring together academics with similar interests for research projects on postcompulsory education and training as part of phase three of the ESRC's teaching and learning research programme.

Details: www.ltsn.ac.uk/tlrp/request.asp

Graduate job offers decrease
About 1 per cent fewer graduates will be taken on by major employers this year compared with 2001, according to a survey by the Incomes Data Services. The median salary is expected to remain at £19,700. But in the past employers have exaggerated their forecasts and actual graduate recruitment could be much lower.

GMC guidelines may breach human rights
The General Medical Council could be breaching human rights by refusing to admit students with disabilities or communicable diseases to medical school.

GMC guidelines advise medical schools not to admit students whose condition prevents them from following the full course satisfactorily, and state that students who may be infectious must not be allowed to follow a modified curriculum.

Lawyers say this could be challenged under the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act and the 1998 Human Rights Act because the GMC is a public body.

Union may fight Ulster over contracts decision
The Association of University Teachers is considering a legal challenge against Ulster University's moves to replace some 20 fixed-term contracts with fewer permanent posts. And the Northern Ireland Assembly's employment and learning committee is to quiz the university on its policy on fixed-term contracts.

Business and management staff, whose average length of service is more than a decade, are concerned that they must compete for the permanent jobs and are not guaranteed a post.

Brian Everett, assistant AUT general secretary, said: "The manner in which the university is approaching this managerial problem is utterly crass."

Scottish police braced for naked infringement
St Andrews University's debating society was this week poised to hear - and see - the naked truth on nudity.

Nudist campaigner Vincent Bethell planned to strip for charity to support the motion "This house will go nude", and ask the audience to follow his example.

Convenor of debates Alan Patterson said that as the society was neutral, it could neither encourage nor discourage the move. But the local police warned that anyone found naked in a public place was liable to be arrested.

Foul play ruled out in researcher's death
Police have ruled out the possibility that Ian Langford, 40, a researcher in environmental risk at the University of East Anglia, whose body was found at his home, died as a result of foul play.

Officers are working on the theories that wounds on his body were either self-inflicted or sustained accidentally.

Kerry Turner, director of the university's Centre for Social and Economic Research in the Global Environment, said: "Ian was one of Europe's leading experts on environmental risk. He was one of the most brilliant colleagues I have ever had."

Transatlantic link given £5.3 million
The national development agency Scottish Enterprise has given Edinburgh and Stanford universities £5.3 million for research to make technology more user-friendly.

This is the first award under Scottish Enterprise's £12 million knowledge economy cross-cutting initiative, which aims to develop transatlantic higher education partnerships to boost Scotland's economy.

Edinburgh's Human Communication Research Centre and Stanford's Centre for the Study of Language and Information are world leaders in research that could underpin humans and computers communicating through the written and spoken word.

Clarification
The following relate to the vice-chancellors' pay table in The THES on February 8:

Andy Haines, dean of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, earned £148,000, down 1.7 per cent on his predecessor.

Gerry Bernbaum, not Deian Hopkin, of South Bank University, received an income of £137,000, up 13.2 per cent on the previous year.

The incoming director of the Institute of Education, Geoff Whitty, earned £111,000, down 8.2 per cent on his predecessor.

Southampton Institute director Roger Brown's earnings included the institute's contribution to his pension. Dr Brown earned £109,000, up 5.8 per cent on the previous year.

Canterbury Christ Church University College principal Michael Wright's earnings included the college's contribution to his pension. Professor Wright earned £102,000, up 4 per cent on the previous year.

King Alfred's College, Winchester, principal Paul Light's earnings also included the college's contribution to his pension. Professor Light earned £83,300, down 16 per cent on his predecessor.

Huddersfield University's vice-chancellor John Tarrant's earnings included the university's contributions to his pension. Professor Tarrant earned £139,000, up 14.4 per cent on the previous year.

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