Today's news

October 21, 2002

UK losing its scientific reputation
The UK's reputation for scientific excellence is being eroded by short-termist government attitudes and the loss of the brightest students to other subjects, the head of science policy at Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceuticals company, warned today. The comments came as Lord Sainsbury, the science minister, admitted that Britain was failing to convince the world of its scientific strengths.
(Financial Times)

Universities could do more with spin-offs
Universities still face substantial impediments to capitalising on their research successes, even though the number of company spin-offs increased significantly in 2001. A survey by the University Companies Association and Nottingham University Business School of 98 UK universities showed that 175 companies were spun off last year, 31 per cent of all spin-offs in the past five years. But much of the activity was concentrated in relatively few universities - a quarter of the universities have spun out 10 or more companies each while a quarter have created no companies.
(Financial Times)

Mummy's boys fail to fly the nest
High housing costs and the burden of student loans have created a generation of 'mummy's boys' who go on living with their parents long after they have grown up, says a report out today. Some 23 per cent of people aged 20 to 30 are still living at home, says a report from the Social Market Foundation and Lever Fabergé. While 18 per cent of female twenty-somethings live with their parents, the figure is 28 per cent for males.
(Financial Times)

Amis aims below belt in attack on Islam
Writer Martin Amis provoked outrage among the Muslim community yesterday by accusing Islamic militants of "quivering with male insecurity". The author, whose next novel addresses the impact of the events of September 11 on the western world, condemned the Bali bombers for generating a new kind of disgust. "It was the softest of soft targets," he said in an interview with The Times .
(Times)

Cheltenham talks novel renaissance
The paradigm British novel of 2002-03 is one that begins with reminiscences of Victorian childhood, then relocates the hero or heroine to China, Japan, India or a similarly exotic location, to become embroiled in a life of crime. The only thing the novelist will probably not be writing about is modern England. These were the conclusions of a panel of commentators at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature yesterday to discuss the prevailing themes and obsessions of young modern writers.
(Independent)

Universities face even colder climate
The biggest test facing ministers is how they are going to fund higher education in the next decade. Universities are not waiting for next month's white paper on the future of higher education. Some have started merger talks already. Others are drawing up plans for top-up fees. Who can blame them. They have already been told by Margaret Hodge, the higher education minister, that their bid for an extra £10 billion over the next three years was "living in cloud-cuckoo land." The universities at most risk are those at the top and the bottom of the league.
(Leader, Guardian)

Private school fees to rise by 10% next year
Parents of children at independent schools face record rises in fees next year as head teachers struggle to control soaring costs. Accountants advise that an average of 10 per cent will be needed. The rise, five times the rate of inflation, follows a succession of big annual increases, including a 7.5 per cent jump this year.
(Times, Daily Mail)

Head teachers call for A-level reforms
Head teachers have published proposals to reform A levels and prevent a return of the chaos that afflicted this year's marking. The 15-point plan has been submitted to Mike Tomlinson, the former chief inspector of schools, who is heading an inquiry.
(Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Independent)

Poll shows Britain is dumbing down
The world's political leaders may be a rum and colourful lot, but the average Briton finds them much less absorbing than the Big Brother survivor Kate Lawler or Phil Mitchell from EastEnders . Showing abysmal ignorance or commendable contentedness, according to your point of view, a poll commissioned by Whitaker's Almanac has found that TV soaps and gameshows absorb the country far more than real-life global events.
(Guardian)

Chess champion meets his match
Vladimir Kramnik, the world chess champion from Russia, admitted that he was totally exhausted when settling for a draw in the eight and final game of the million-dollar "man versus machine" chess contest in Bahrain. His opponent, the Deep Fritz computer from Germany, played "human chess", he said.
(Times, Guardian)

Thieves pillage Iron Age fort
Nighthawks, archaeological thieves operating with metal detectors, have ransacked the slopes of one of Northumberland's most important Iron Age hilltop forts, Yeavering Bell. The attack, on a site which has never been excavated, is one of the most determined in recent years, and has shocked archaeologists in an area that has so far been relatively free of the scourge.
(Guardian)

Gender-bending poison fear for young
The latest findings from a long-term study into the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins in children by scientists based at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, offer new evidence about the risks posed by 'gender-bending' chemicals. Tiny amounts of the chemicals altered the behaviour of children, causing girls and boys to 'swap' sex preferences in games and hobbies.
(Daily Mail)

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