From today's UK papers

March 7, 2002

Failing colleges could be closed for poor results
Weak colleges face closure as part of a crackdown on standards in further education that will be outlined by the government today. Ministers are alarmed that, of the 4 million students in further education, only 50 per cent will leave with the qualification they sought: one in four will leave with nothing at all. The new "get-tough" strategy, outlined in The Independent by Margaret Hodge, the minister for higher education, will be spelt out to a conference of college principals and leading figures from the world of adult education in London today. (Independent)

Industrial strife may hit teacher recruitment
The government yesterday welcomed a dramatic 22 per cent rise in applications for teacher training - but warned that industrial unrest in schools could halt the increases. Official figures published yesterday showed that almost 26,000 graduates have applied to train for the profession, compared with 21,000 at this time last year. (Financial Times)

First female winner of mathematics prize
A prize for young British mathematicians has been awarded to a woman for the first time in its 120-year history. Susan Howson, 29, a Royal Society fellow and Nottingham University lecturer, was awarded the £12,000 Adams Prize after her research was judged to be world class by an international panel of mathematics professor. (Independent)

Budget to pave way for new training subsidies
Pilots for a new training scheme subsidy that could be worth up to £1 billion a year are expected to be launched in next month's budget. The pilots, first proposed in November's pre-budget report, will offer people with low skills up to 100 per cent of the cost of approved training and accreditation. (Financial Times)

China takes lead in embryo cloning
Chinese scientists from Xiangya Medical College claim to have stolen a march on the West by cloning "dozens" of human embryos and fusing human tissue with rabbit eggs to produce stem cells. They told The Wall Street Journal that they have made better progress than expected and are now working towards producing a stem cell "line" - an unlimited source of the cells. (Times)

Questions raised over infertility treatment
Babies conceived through infertility treatments are more than twice as likely to suffer from major birth defects or low birth weight than children conceived naturally, according to two studies published today. The studies in the New England Journal of Medicine raises questions about the safety of assisted reproduction and may spark renewed debate about government's oversight role. (Financial Times)

Music grades may be used to check language skills
The grading system used to gauge musical proficiency may be introduced to assess competence in foreign languages, Baroness Aston of Upholland, who is responsible for the government's review of language learning, said yesterday. (Times)

Australian fossils may be world's oldest lifeforms
Scientists might have found fossil evidence of the oldest lifeform on earth, which lived 3.5 billion years ago - or they have stumbled upon some very old bubbles in a piece of rock. A team led by William Schopf of the University of California, Los Angeles, believes the microscopic structures they have analysed in rocks from Western Australia are fossil bacteria dating back almost to the origin of life. (Independent)

Business trips really make partners sick
Business travel may be good for your career, but it makes your partner ill, according to research supported by the World Bank. The spouses of frequent business travellers are three times as likely to suffer from mental health problems, but they also suffer from significantly worse health overall. Doctors believe that the stress of "intermittent husband syndrome", when a partner is often abandoned to cope with the household and children alone, is to blame. (Times)

Flat pack homes may solve London crisis
Portable flat pack homes which can be slotted into place on disused carparks or playing fields were unveiled yesterday as a possible solution to the housing crisis facing London's key workers. (Guardian)

Steam pioneer may have begun as a fraudster
James Watt, one of the giants of the industrial revolution, may have begun his career with counterfeit credentials, a scientist claims today. According to New Scientist magazine there is evidence that the steam engine genius made cheap musical instruments and passed them off as the expensive work of a French master craftsman. (Guardian)

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