Today's news

November 20, 2002

MPs attack universities over science base failure
Universities have failed Britain's science base because of their "callous and short-sighted" management culture, a Commons inquiry will say today. The "ostrich-like" funding bodies and the government's failure to act are also lambasted by the MPs, who warn that researchers are being driven overseas or into the private sector. The damning report by the science and technology select committee claims that the universities' exploitation of researchers on short-term contracts is damaging research quality. It warns there is a "crisis in science and engineering research careers". This crisis stems from universities' decision to respond to mounting financial pressures by increasing their reliance on short-term staff. The MPs state they await next year's higher education review "more in the hope than the expectation that it will provide some original and innovative thinking" on research management. Universities yesterday criticised the "unhelpful" report.
(Financial Times)

Clarke gives colleges £1bn boost
Labour is to spend £1.2 billion revitalising the "forgotten" further education service after virtually ignoring it for five years of government. Nearly two thirds of colleges inspected so far this year were judged to be inadequate or requiring a partial reinspection. Charles Clarke, the education secretary, admitted that further education had suffered for years from underfunding and excessive bureaucracy and that its lecturers were paid less than school teachers. The additional money will be spread over three years resulting in an extra 2 per cent in real terms for all colleges, plus additional sums linked to performance for the best, defined as those that meet government targets.
(Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Times)

Shortlist of four in LSE running
The race to replace Anthony Giddens as director of the London School of Economics has entered the final furlong. A shortlist of six has been culled to a gang of four, according to FT Observer's campus moles. Those still in the frame, the canteen chat has it, include Adair Turner, head of the Low Pay Commission and former director-general of the CBI, and Sir Howard Davies, who has plenty of brains and is leaving the Financial Services Authority in a year. Giuliano Amato, the former Italian prime minister who is a law professor and vice-president of the convention on the future of Europe, and an unknown the rumour mill variously believes to be Mervyn King, deputy governor of the Bank of England, the World Bank's Nick Stern or a vice-chancellor from elsewhere, complete the quartet.
(Financial Times)

Cervical cancer vaccine within 5 years
Doctors testing a new vaccine to stop cervical cancer have had a 100 per cent success rate in trials. They believe the vaccine, given as an injection, will save thousands of lives and eventually make the much criticised smear testing programme redundant. The vaccine boosts the immune system against human papiloma virus, the cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer.
(Daily Mail)

'Graduate tax fairer than top-up fees'
A graduate tax rather than top-up fees would be the fairest way to solve the university funding crisis, the education secretary, Charles Clarke, hints in a new discussion document. In papers placed on the Department for Education and Skills website on the running debate over university finance, Mr Clarke suggests the current reliance on parents' income to decide how much a student pays towards their higher education is an anachronism.
(Guardian, Daily Mail)

Americans 'think UK is in the Middle-East'
Most Americans think that the United Kingdom is "somewhere in the Middle East", Kim Howells, the tourism minister, said yesterday. He made his comments when he tried to persuade MPs of the failings of the tourist industry, saying: "Very often people do not understand the title of the country." He told the Commons culture committee about the outcome of a fact-finding trip to the United States. "In America people had heard of London, some had heard of England, no one had heard of the United Kingdom - they thought it was somewhere in the Middle East." A spokesman for the Department of Culture said Mr Howells's remarks were intended to be "light-hearted".
(Daily Telegraph, Guardian)

Politics is the last resort for teenagers
British teenagers would rather attend a church service than a political meeting or demonstration, says a new report. But most prefer to stay at home and play on their computers. The extent of political apathy among the young is laid bare in a survey of 1,000 people by BMRB for the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. More than two-fifths of 14- to 19-year-olds said they did not know how a prime minister was elected or what political parties did.
(Daily Telegraph)

Yesterday's news makes history in the digital age
For five decades from 1910, the twice-weekly Pathe Gazette newsreels were the main way that British people saw what was happening in the world. Using money from the National Lottery's New Opportunities Fund, Pathe has transferred its entire archive to a digital format, easily downloaded over the web (www.britishpathe.com). Members of the public can search the archive using keywords then choose between downloading a low-resolution clip free, or paying £50 and getting a crystalline high-resolution version. For £18, you can even have your chosen clip transferred to videotape.
(Independent)

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