Today's news

December 11, 2002

Labour to give academics £1.5bn pay boost
Academics are set for a three-year catch-up pay deal as a result of a £1.5 billion funding boost for universities to be unveiled next month. The cash injection will pave the way for a deal for academics linked to modernising the way they work. It will see the higher education budget rise from £5.3 billionn a year to £6.8 billion over the three years of chancellor Gordon Brown's comprehensive spending review settlement. The deal is separate from any long-term review of student finance. The money was cautiously welcomed by unions representing academics. But it is well short of the £10 billion university vice-chancellors say is needed to bring buildings up to scratch and prevent staff leaving.

Security in university labs lacking, say MPs
The government is not doing enough to stop terrorists infiltrating British universities to acquire lethal germ warfare agents, MPs said today. The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee said that supporters of al-Qaida and other groups could lay their hands on deadly biological materials by signing up for postgraduate scientific research courses. The current voluntary system of vetting overseas students applying for higher education courses where they would have access to dangerous materials was inadequate, the committee said.

BBC to launch best-loved book poll
The search has begun to identify the most popular book in history in a project that aims to transform Britain into a national book club. After 6 million viewers tuned in to witness Sir Winston Churchill crowned as the greatest Briton, the BBC has started its most ambitious arts undertaking. Hustings will begin next March to find Britain’s best-loved book, but the vote is part of a wider initiative, involving publishers and government agencies, to "celebrate the joy and magic of reading".

Staff deny porn claim at British Library
The British Library has suspended nine of its staff for allegedly downloading pornographic material from the internet. A spokesman for the library, whose archives hold the largest collection of pornography in the world, said that it was a private disciplinary matter and that no crimes had been committed. The workers face disciplinary hearings next week to decide if they have broken the terms of contracts that specifically identify the viewing of pornography in working hours as a misuse of resources.
(Times, Independent)

Physicist and enthusiast for science dies
William Mitchell, successively head of physics at Reading and Oxford universities, and chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council from 1985 to 1990 has died, aged 78.

Nuclear physicist devoted to safe fusion dies
Derek Robinson, director of the Euratom/UKAEA fusion programme and Cullom Science Centre has died of cancer, aged 61.


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