News in brief

November 24, 2011

Chemistry provision

Dust off the Bunsen burners

A new department of chemistry is to be established at Lancaster University, more than a decade after it ceased to teach the subject. Lancaster is seeking to recruit up to 25 new staff in order to launch a new undergraduate degree in chemistry in 2013. The move comes 12 years after Lancaster closed its old department of chemistry. It says in a statement released last week that the decision taken in 1999 was made at a time when chemistry departments were being closed across the UK. "However, the number of young people taking chemistry at A level has increased significantly in the last eight years and the numbers of applications to study chemistry at university are also increasing," the statement adds.

University mergers

We're not together

The universities of Dundee and Abertay Dundee have issued a joint statement making it clear that they will not merge. The institutions, along with Dundee College, say in the statement released last week that they will remain "autonomous and independent bodies, with distinctive missions, visions and values". The move follows a request by the Scottish Funding Council in September that the two universities discuss the possibility of a merger. The Scottish government has stated that there is "room for some consolidation" in the country's academy and has highlighted "overlaps in provision" in some cities.

Gifts and funding

Dirty donations under scrutiny

A conference is to consider the problem of "dirty hands" in university funding after a series of scandals over donations. The two-day event is being organised by the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics at the University of Brighton in association with Times Higher Education, and it will consider topics such as the ethical issues associated with funded chairs and centres, as well as the responsibilities of academics in relation to university financing. The conference will take place on 26 and March 2012, and a call for papers has now been issued. For more information, email Bob Brecher at

Book prizes

Idle hand makes waves

An expert in idleness has won the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. Gavin Pretor-Pinney, co-founder of The Idler magazine, which celebrates doing nothing, scooped the prize for The Wavewatcher's Companion. Described by judges as "marvellously deft with its presentation of hard modern science", the book explains what waves are and how they are all around us, from Mexican to electromagnetic varieties. Mr Pretor-Pinney was presented with the £10,000 prize by Royal Society president Sir Paul Nurse on 17 November.


Dame's long goodbye

Dame Lynne Brindley is to step down as chair of the British Library after 12 years in the post. Following the library's move to its flagship building in St Pancras in 1997, Dame Lynne oversaw its development, making it more accessible to researchers, business and the public. She also guided it through a vital strategic development and modernisation programme to ensure that the library remained relevant in the digital era. She will stand down in July 2012.


There was a lively reaction among online readers to last week's report on the preliminary findings of a study into perceptions of professors among more junior academics.

One reader, a professor, writes: "I tried the mentoring for some time before completely giving up when faced with people who (despite my research record and years of teaching) doubted that I could know more or have more experience than they did.

"I have since found peace and quiet by focusing on my interests and those of my research group."

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