News in Brief

July 14, 2011

University access

Five go mad in Oxbridge

Five high-flying schools sent more students to Oxbridge over three years than 2,000 other UK schools and colleges put together, a report by the Sutton Trust reveals. Westminster School, Eton College, St Paul's School, St Paul's Girls' School and Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge produced 946 Oxbridge entrants in 2007-09 - more than one in 20 of all admissions. Meanwhile, just under 2,000 schools and colleges produced 9 Oxbridge students in the same period. Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said the data reveal "that university chances can vary dramatically for schools with similar average grades".

Academic freedom

Bisa calls for suspension inquiry

The British International Studies Association has appealed for an independent inquiry into the case of a suspended University of Nottingham academic. Rod Thornton, lecturer in politics and international relations, was suspended after writing an article that criticised university staff over the arrests of an administrator and a student under the Terrorism Act in 2008. The article was removed from the Bisa website after a staff member complained. Inderjeet Parmar, Bisa's chair, writes in a letter to David Greenaway, Nottingham's vice-chancellor: "I wonder if it would not be helpful, in clarifying this matter, to consider appointing an independent committee inquiry to investigate the matter and publish its findings."

Student loans

Penalising early repayment 'mad'

A government consultation on whether to charge wealthier graduates extra for paying back student loans early has sparked strong online responses, with contributors labelling the idea "immoral", "irresponsible" and "madness". The consultation - launched last month alongside the government's White Paper - puts forward three options for "progressive" mechanisms to penalise graduates for early repayment. One option would charge a percentage levy on payments made above a certain threshold; another would penalise early repayment based on individual earnings; and the third idea is a hybrid of the two. The consultation, which ends in September, also puts forward the case for keeping the existing system, which does not penalise early repayment.

Europe

'Growth-friendly expenditure'

The European Commission's commitment to spend €15.2 billion (£13.6 billion) on education, training and youth, envisions the sectors as "growth-friendly expenditures". That was the message from the European University Association after the European Union announced the funding, part of its total 2014-20 budget of €1,025 billion. Jean-Marc Rapp, the EUA president, said recently that state expenditure on higher education should be regarded as "investment" rather than "consumption".

Citations

Nature's impact

Nature was the most highly cited journal in the latest edition of Thomson Reuters' Journal Citation Reports. Its impact factor - a measure of the average number of citations for published papers - rose to a new high of 36.1. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians achieved the highest impact factor (94.26).

ONLINE NOW

The launch of a high-profile open-access scientific journal, billed as an antidote to existing journals' preoccupation with impact factors and media profiles, attracted comment from online readers.

"Editor's victim" writes that it "is horrifying to think that some young scientist's career is being curtailed because of some failed postdoc editor who thinks that an original piece of work by somebody who does not have a big name is not worth publishing.

"The publishing business is what it is: a business. Why are we placing the progress of science in the hands of businesspeople?"

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