University boom begins to slow
The growth in applications to university has tailed off sharply, according to figures released yesterday. The number of teenagers seeking places on degree courses this year rose by only 0.5 per cent compared with 2 per cent in 2002, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service says.
In an analysis of the UCAS figures, The THES reveals today that students are steering clear of some new universities and turning their backs on diploma courses. Full story at www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.asp?fksp=1&id=434
Employers urged to oversee vocational exams
The country's top exams regulator today calls for employers to have a big role in setting and marking the new generation of skills-based vocational GCSEs and A-levels. "Industry-driven" qualifications should be assessed through the "performance of tasks" on a modular basis rather than through traditional written exams, Dr Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, tells the Times Educational Supplement . He says industry-trained assessors should mark coursework. His intervention mirrors government efforts to get business more directly involved in the design and assessment of university degrees.
Falling in love gives mice sixth sense
When we think of a loved one's face, a set of neurons fires in the areas of our brains devoted to vision. When mice encounter each other, they build up a similar image based not on vision but on pheromones. The discovery that animals form a pheromonal vision of other animals, which includes information on the other's sex, identity, social standing and female reproductive status, "opens one of the last 'black boxes' in the brain", according to Lawrence Katz, one of the authors of the research, which is published today in the journal Science .
Protein allows sperm to swim
Scientists at Leeds University have been studying the tails of sperm in order to identify just what it is that causes sperm to wriggle and swim. The answer is the protein dynein, and the researchers have taken the first photographs of individual molecules of dynein. Their work, reported in Nature , could lead to improvements in human fertility treatment.
Sleepwalk gene identified
A gene that predisposes people to sleepwalk has been discovered, marking the first genetic link with the disorder. A researcher from Geneva University and colleagues in France and Germany studied 60 sufferers of the disorder. They report in the journal Molecular Psychiatry that one version of a gene that plays a role in the immune system, called HLA-DQB1, can boost the risk of sleepwalking by more than threefold.
BBC lines up a new poem for Britain
The search has begun for the new Jerusalem as poets are invited to compose a poem that will define Britain in the 21st century. A 16-line "poem for our times" is being sought by the BBC, which will then dramatise the winning verse in a film later this year. Shortlisted poems will be performed on screen and the winner announced in a special programme on October 9, National Poetry Day. Poems can be sent by email, or by post to BBC Poetry Competition, PO Box 38859, London W12 6WG. A website will include tips on how to compose poetry. The competition closes on May 31.
(Times, Daily Telegraph)
Stargazers have been offered a £20,000 reward for retrieving parts of a meteorite seen by more than 100 people streaking across the Irish skyline at about 7am on Wednesday. Astronomy Ireland has yet to pinpoint where it landed, but it is thought to be in the rugged landscape of Co Donegal.