Today's news

October 17, 2002

Union threatens to strike over super-university
Academic staff at two London colleges intending to merge into one "super-university" threatened yesterday to block the plans with strike action. Professors, lecturers and researchers at Imperial College and University College London said they feared that the move would lead to job cuts and loss of identity. Others suggested that the project was being driven by the personal ambitions of Sir Derek Roberts, the provost  of UCL and Sir Richard Sykes, his opposite number.

Students face big rise in fees at top universities
An elite "Ivy League" group of universities would be allowed to charge top-up fees of up to £6,000 a year to students under government proposals for a shake-up of higher education to be unveiled next month. A graduate tax and a proposal for a substantial across-the-board rise in tuition fees for all students will also be put forward by ministers in a white paper on higher education funding.

Duncan Smith attacks value of A levels
The Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, told Mps yesterday that no one knew if A levels were "worth the paper they are written on" as he accused ministers of undermining faith in the examination system. His comments came as he challenged Tony Blair on education policy at Prime Minister's questions, before an opposition debate on A-level grades, school discipline and criminal record checks.
(Times, Independent, Daily Mail)

Why studying in Europe lacks allure
Fewer UK students than ever are choosing to study in Europe on an Erasmus exchange. The latest figures show that the number of UK students participating in the Socrates-Erasmus programme last academic year was 8,481, a decline of about 5 per cent on the previous year. That previous year had, in turn, represented a drop of 10 per cent.

EU rules to end ban on GM food
Legislation expected to bring the end of a four-year ban on the sale and use of new genetically modified food products in Britain and the rest of Europe takes effect today. The rules, which members of the European Parliament have described as the toughest GM licensing laws in the world - will ensure that all GM food crops undergo a series of rigorous risk assessment tests before they are authorised for sale, marketing, or even planting anywhere in the European Union.

Heart attack victims miss out on specialists
A third of patients who have had major heart attacks are never seen by a cardiologist because of a shortage of specialists, a joint report by the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Cardiac Society said yesterday.
(Daily Telegraph)

Proof that scientists know their onions
Japanese scientists have identified the enzyme that is responsible for cooks shedding tears while chopping onions and think that a genetically modified version could save the flavour but stem the weeping. Their findings are reported today in the journal Nature .
(Independent, Guardian)

Teenage tantrums just grow on them
Teenagers' sulks, tantrums and general bad behaviour are not really their fault, according to scientists: they are caused by a temporary growth spurt in their brains. A team of scientists from San Diego State University, California, found that as children enter puberty, their ability to recognise other people's emotion nosedives, New Scientist reports.
(Times, Daily Mail)

The caravan campus
Further education colleges have found a new niche in the market - courses for older learners. Caravanning is just one of the courses on offer at South Trafford College in Manchester.

Star's orbit is telltale sign of black hole
The orbit of the star closest to the centre of our galaxy confirms that a huge black hole - many millions of times the mass of the Sun - lurks there, according to a study published today by a team of European astronomers in the journal Nature .
(Daily Telegraph, Independent)

Stone-skimming secret revealed
The secret of how to skim stones across wide stretches of water has been revealed by a French physicist from Lyons University. Champion stone-skimmers apparently succeed because they spin the stone faster than other competitors. To bounce at least once without sinking, a stone has to travel at a minimum speed of 0.6mph. But spin is also important as it prevents the stone from tipping and falling sideways into the water.
(Daily Telegraph)

British rain puts paid to car of the future
The first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to be shown to the British media was beaten yesterday by the British weather. The Ford Focus Fuel Cell Vehicle, which has a top speed of 130mph and a range of more than 200 miles, and is fuelled by 4kg (8.8lb) of hydrogen in a tank in the boot, came to a sudden stop in the Cornish rain whilst being driven by The Times and the engineers failed to fix it. "It's not been tuned to Britain's climate," one said.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Mail)

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