Today's news

October 22, 2002

Anger at student appraisal plan for academic staff
The government is ready to extend performance-related pay to academic staff, using a new form of student appraisal to set levels of pay. The proposal, first revealed in The THES , is central to ministers' vision of a free market in higher education, which will lead to successful universities prospering and weak ones being forced to merge or even close. But the plan, understood to be part of the delayed white paper on higher education expected to be published next month, will be strongly resisted by university teachers who say it would be "the single most divisive policy" the government could introduce.

Pledge to narrow pay gap for FE lecturers
Estelle Morris is to commit the government to narrow "substantially" the pay gap between teachers at secondary schools and further education college lecturers over the next three years. Next month, the education secretary will announce the target alongside a big increase in funding for FE colleges. The aim is to equip the sector to deliver improvements in vocational education and skills for business.
(Financial Times)

Morris accused of reneging on pledge to quit
Estelle Morris, the beleaguered education secretary, was accused of lying to Parliament last night after it emerged that she had reneged on a commitment to resign over the government's failure to achieve literacy and numeracy targets. Speaking at a Tory debate on education on 2 March 1999, Ms Morris was asked whether she would "commit herself" to Mr Blunkett's pledge to resign if the government failed to reach its targets by 2002. Ms Morris said: "Of course I will; I have already done so. Indeed, I generously commit [Mr Clarke] too." But she changed her tune at the Commons education select committee on 24 October 2001.
(Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

Bigger is beautiful
Tomorrow, the ruling councils of Manchester University and Umist will be asked to dissolve more than 150 years of history and form the largest UK university outside London. It is the sector's latest upheaval as universities adapt to chill financial winds and jostle for research funding. It is an inevitable response to current conditions, says Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Brunel University.

For better, for the best
Will wedding bells ring for a world-beating merger of Imperial and UCL?

University admissions: not so black and white
In America, as in Britain, the burning issue in higher education this autumn is the fairness of the university admissions process. But whereas the British dispute turns on class and social privilege - are working-class pupils being judged unfairly, or is a reverse snobbery being directed at privately schooled children? - the American fight is over racial discrimination.

Lung cancer loses scramble for research cash
Lung cancer is a poor relation in research spending, the first national survey of cancer research has shown. It accounts for 22 per cent of British cancer deaths but gets 3 per cent of research money, the National Cancer research Institute has found. Research into the prevention of cancer is also relatively poorly supported, receiving just 2 per cent of the money. At the other extreme, leukaemia is responsible for 3 per cent of deaths, but gets 17 per cent of research money, while breast cancer causes 8 per cent of cancer deaths but receives 18 per cent of the total.

Link between brain damage and paedophilia
Neurologists from the University of Virginia, claim to have found evidence that a brain tumour turned a school teacher into a paedophile with an uncontrollable sex drive. The 40-year-old had no paedophile urges before the tumour developed, and his behaviour returned to normal once it was removed.
(Independent, Daily Telegraph)

Nelson's sabre cuts a dash at auction
A long-lost sword belonging to Horatio Nelson confounded expectations to fetch £336,650 at auction yesterday. The Turkish sabre, which disappeared in mysterious circumstances in the 19th century, reached more than five times its estimated value. It is thought to have been bequeathed to Nelson by Sultan Selim III of Turkey in recognition of his victories on the Nile. Nelson's bloodstained purse, containing 21 gold coins placed in it by him on the morning of his last battle, raised £0,650.
(Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph)

Archbishop wanted: apply in writing
The Church of England will advertise nationally for its next Archbishop of Canterbury when Dr Rowan Williams retires in 18 years' time. Anyone will, for the first time, be able to nominate a candidate, or even themselves.

Oxford's bulldogs to be disbanded
The bowler-hatted police force that controls the behaviour of undergraduates at Oxford university is to be disbanded. The bulldogs, Britain's oldest private police force, has enforced discipline since 1215. The Home Office is expected to grant permission for disbandment following a campaign by Oxford students. The bulldogs will be replaced by a new uniformed force, although the bowlers will be used for ceremonial occasions.

Iron Age village uncovered at Whitby
Archaeologists digging land adjoining Whitby Abbey have discovered a new and unexpected dimension to the site. A part of the 150ft headland - on the brink of collapsing into the sea - has yielded evidence of a 2,000-year-old Iron Age domestic settlement, possibly dating from the first or second century BC.
(Independent, Guardian)

Box may have first mention of Jesus
A few words carved into a limestone box stolen from a cave in Jerusalem 15 years ago could be the earliest known reference to Jesus Christ, theologians said yesterday. One even hailed the find as the most important since the Dead Sea Scrolls. André Lemaire, a historian at the Paris-based Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, will announce his conclusions in next month's issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review .

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