Today's news

September 12, 2002

Cash crunch threatens expansion, v-c says
The financial position of Britain’s universities is now unsustainable and they may be unable to meet the government’s demands to expand student numbers and widen participation, said Roderick Floud, vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University. He said students would face higher tuition fees unless the government provides an extra £10 billion in funding. (The Guardian, The Independent, The Times)

Hodge moots competitive market for universities
Universities unpopular with students and industry can no longer rely on existing levels of state funding, the government said yesterday, giving the clearest signal yet that it intends to introduce a new market in higher education. “If students and research funders do not want what is on offer, why on earth should we carry on funding it?” Margaret Hodge, higher education minister, asked the UK’s vice-chancellors at their annual meeting in Aberystwyth. (The Financial Times)

Weak universities deserve to go
Leader echoes Margaret Hodge’s message to vice-chancellors. (The Independent)

From the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science
Chickens’ stock rises on intelligence tests
Chickens are not the bird brains popularly thought – they can learn by watching the mistakes of other hens, according to Christine Nicol of Bristol University. (The Daily Mail, The Financial Times, The Guardian)

Precaution may be deadlier than anthrax
The public reaction to last autumn’s anthrax attacks in the US, when vast numbers took unnecessary antibiotics “just in case”, might kill more people than the anthrax itself, said Chris Willmott, a Leicester University biochemist. (The Financial Times, The Times)

Scientists denounce cloning as flawed
Cloning has produced animals with hundreds of abnormal genes, and to use cloning on humans would be irresponsible, according to Rudolf Jaenisch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ryuzo Yanagimachi of the University of Hawaii. Their findings are detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . (The Daily Mail)

Hands off that euro
Scientists have discovered that euro coins are more likely to cause allergic reactions than the currencies they replaced. (The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Times)

Fat chance to reduce clean fuel
Waste cooking oil will provide a cleaner alternative to fossil fuel thanks to a technique developed by Tarik Al-Shemmeri of Staffordshire University. (The Financial Times)

Mother-in-law bad for you? It’s no joke
Generations of comics were right, it seems. Mothers-in-law are bad for your health – or at least that of your children. In New Scientist magazine, Eckart Voland and Jan Beise of Giessen University in Germany report that a study of communities in the 18th and 19th centuries has shown that children were more likely to die young if their father’s mother was involved in family life. (The Daily Mail, The Times)

Historical documents being eaten away
Curators around the world are struggling to prevent the destruction of tens of thousands of historical books and manuscripts – including sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt, handwritten music by Bach and Handel and the American Constitution – that are under attack by the iron-gall ink used to write them. (The Independent)

Consign 2:1s and 2:2s to history
Susan Bassnett, pro vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, calls for universities to abolish degree classes and the paraphernalia that goes with the antiquated system. (The Independent)

A league of their own
The palace coup that toppled Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith from the top job at University College London heralds a change in universities – vice-chancellors are discarded like football managers if they do not get results. (The Independent)

Tomorrow’s doctors, here today
New training initiatives in UK universities are boosting the number of doctors in the country and the diversity of the practitioners. (The Independent)

Obituaries
The economist Rudi Dornbusch, who tutored a generation of leading economists and policy-makers and also gave the field one of its most important breakthroughs of the modern era, has died, aged 60. (The Guardian)

The biophysicist D. K. Hill has died, aged 87. (The Independent, The Times)

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