News in brief

May 11, 2001

Teachers still needed in e-learning world

E-learning will change the role and skills of teachers but not eliminate them altogether, according to an Institute for Employment Studies report published this week.

E-learning is unsuitable for soft-skill development such as team building and communication, is viewed as cold and impersonal by some learners and is still dependent on human support, the report says. Press release

Father with sick child fights for ME centre

Edinburgh University comp-uter officer Nick Stroud is helping to head a campaign for a specialist research centre for myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome. Tom-orrow is ME Awareness Day.

Dr Stroud, whose son suffers from ME and has not been to school for more than three years, said the United Kingdom lagged behind other countries in studying and defining ME, but there were probably 15,000 sufferers in Scotland alone.

Call for watchdog on research sponsorship

An international watchdog to check the damaging effect of commercial pressures on scientific research integrity should be set up, a conference on academic freedom heard last week.

Sir David Weatherall, Oxford University professor of medicine, said commercialism had blighted work in his centre, the Institute of Molecular Medicine. Young researchers became too heavily tied to their commercial sponsors and were unable to discuss their findings with one another.

Sir David joined the Campaign for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards in calling for external scrutiny of commercial deals.

Schoolboy wins £500 with energy idea

A 12-year-old London schoolboy has won a special commendation and £500 from the organisers of the St Andrews Prize, the annual environmental award co-sponsored by St Andrews University and the international energy company Conoco.

Marcus Ker impressed judges with his idea to create electricity by plugging the nation's exercise bikes into the national grid. The cheque will buy books or software for his school.

Legal action threat over Edinburgh site

Queen Margaret University College is threatening legal action after losing its chance to develop an Edinburgh site into a unified campus to the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The local health trust pulled out of negotiations for the site of a former psychiatric hospital and is now in talks with the Royal Bank of Scotland, which wants a site for its world headquarters.

A Queen Margaret spokesperson said: "We still believe that the site should be jointly developed by Queen Margaret University College and the Royal Bank of Scotland as a flagship for Edinburgh."

BMJ readers to vote editor in or out of a job

Readers of the British Medical Journal are to decide whether editor Richard Smith should resign as professor of medical journalism at Nottingham University in the wake of the £3.8 million British American Tobacco funding row unless the cash is returned.

A vote on bmj.com will follow statements from Sir Colin Campbell, Nottingham vice-chancellor, that acceptance of this corporate funding met the requirements of agreed protocol, and from Dr Smith, who argues the university put its reputation at risk.

£40 million for learning and skills councils

The new 47 local learning and skills councils will receive a £40 million boost in "legacy funding" from the training and enterprise councils they have replaced, education minister Baroness Blackstone has announced.

The money will support learning and skills activities.

Education secretary David Blunkett has also announced the launch of a £20 million Youth Service standards fund to support the development of youth work across the country.

Ten Glasgow colleges 'should become five'

A review of Glasgow's ten further education colleges suggests merging them into five: a single central college and one for each quadrant of the city.

The report by consultants KPMG was commissioned jointly by the Glasgow Colleges Group and the Scottish Further Education Funding Council.

John Sizer, chief executive of the SFEFC, said the report was a sound basis for discussion on the future of further education provision in Glasgow.

30,000 lecturers to strike over pay claim

Further education colleges face shutdown on Tuesday May 22 when some 30,000 further education lecturers go on strike over this year's pay claim for £3,000. Members of Natfhe, the lecturers' union, in 280 colleges have voted decisively in favour of a day's action, to be followed by other disruptive action.

The very model of a modern medicine man

King's College, London is encouraging trainee doctors to "communicate better" by studying the arts alongside medicine.

The move has attracted a £2 million grant from the D'Oyly Carte Charitable Trust to establish the United Kingdom's first chair in medicine and the arts.

A college spokeswoman said the creation of the chair "will stimulate high-quality teaching and research in the creative, literary and performing arts and their relationship with medicine in its broadest sense".

Sir William Gilbert, librettist of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas produced by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company since the 1870s, graduated from King's in 1857.

Ups and downs of R&D spend

Total net research and development spending in 1998-99, excluding National Health Service expenditure, has increased in cash terms by 30.8 per cent since 1986-87. But the trend in real terms has been downward, with expenditure declining by 21.8 per cent over the same period. This has been reversed since 1999-2000.

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