Today's news

November 26, 2002

Catapult stunt kills Oxford student
A student at Oxford University has died after a spectacular human catapult stunt went wrong. Dino Yankov, 19, a member of a dangerous sports club, fell short of a safety net after being fired 100ft through the air from a copy of a medieval siege engine known as a trebuchet. Mr Yankov, a Bulgarian who was a first-year biochemistry undergraduate at Wadham College, had serious leg and spinal injuries and was airlifted to hospital in Bristol, where he died five hours later. Police are investigating the incident with the Health and Safety Executive, and the catapult’s operators may face prosecution.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

Ministers may split funding for universities
Ministers are considering splitting the funding of higher education between research and teaching institutions. The controversial proposals being considered by Charles Clarke, education secretary, would in effect introduce a two-tier system similar to the one operating before 1992, when polytechnics became universities. While provision would be made to continue funding first-class, emerging research departments, ministers want to concentrate research funding to boost pay, improve laboratories and create critical mass of academic excellence. In 2002-03 the funding council for England distributed £940m to universities for research - three-quarters of it to the 20 top, research-led universities.
(Financial Times)

Indonesians are delaying our trial, says academic
A Scottish academic who went on trial yesterday in Indonesia for violating her tourist visa in the conflict-ravaged province of Aceh accused the prosecution of prolonging her detention for as long as possible. Lesley McCulloch, 40, from Dunoon in Argyll, spent less than half an hour in the dock because the judge said he had no choice but to adjourn the case until tomorrow after prosecutors failed to produce any of the six main witnesses they said they had summoned.

Academic job cuts continue despite expansion plans
More than 2,000 academic jobs have been cut or threatened in the past year, despite the government's goal of expanding student numbers to draw 50 per cent of young people into higher education. The tally by the Association of University Teachers adds to the pressure on the government to sort out what ministers now concede is a crisis in university funding. The other lecturers' union, Natfhe, regards the figure as an underestimate and points out it does not include an estimated 20,000 contract researchers whose posts were not renewed.
Marks for presentation: Report on whether students can be trusted to evaluate their lecturers
Fair pickings: Cambridge is leading the way in training its academics to be good interviewers of potential students.

Not good at sums : As more people participate in higher education, won't market saturation force more of them into lower paid work? The DFES estimates that graduates earn a premium of £400,000 over their working life in the spotlight.
Let 'em go at 14 : Ex-Ofsted chief debunks Labour's lifelong learning.

Industry warns on R&D spending in EU
Europe's biggest industrial companies expect to shift an increasing amount of their research and development spending outside the European Union because of what they see as "unattractive" investment conditions in the EU ranging from inadequate human resources and infrastructure, insufficient financial incentives and unwieldy regulation. A confidential note to EU government leaders from the European Round Table of Industrialists describes ambitious targets agreed this year by governments at the Barcelona European Council to raise R&D investment from 1.9 per cent of GDP to 3 per cent by 2010, as "unrealistic".
(Financial Times)

UK still lags behind in looking after environment
Britain still lags behind in key areas of pollution control, waste management, prosecuting environmental criminals and protection of important wildlife areas, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said yesterday. In the first significant report on Britain's environmental performance in eight years, the OECD said the government's record had shown improvements in many areas but much more needed to be done.

Cambridge organist and choirmaster dies
As the organist and choirmaster of St John’s College, Cambridge, George Guest brought both Welsh fervour and English harmony to the timeless tradition of collegiate choral singing. In a 40-year tenure he enhanced the reputation of the choir, leading to regular broadcasts of evensong and carol services. He died in Cambridge aged 78.

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