Today's news

February 17, 2003

Schools of medicine cap Muslim intake
Medical schools have started restricting the admission of Muslim students after complaints that they are forcing doctors to abandon the teaching of some subjects on religious grounds. The proportion of medical students coming from the ethnic minorities has risen from 10 per cent to 33 per cent over the past two decades, but the refusal of Muslim students to learn about some procedures, such as abortion, has become a cause for concern, according to the Council of Heads of Medical Schools. Academics say that some tutors have started to manipulate admissions after complaints that students who wanted to follow traditional medical syllabuses were becoming an "endangered species".

Students may have to tell on their parents
Universities are set to demand that students declare their income in a drive to pick out students from less well-off families more easily. Students may also be asked to reveal details of their parents' qualifications. The proposal will be considered by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service this spring and will be introduced in 2005 if it wins backing.
(Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph)

If you don't make the grade, take a hike
Extracurricular activities such as hiking are to count as A-level work for pupils trying to get into university. The scheme, devised by Kent University vice-chancellor David Melville, is designed to help disadvantaged pupils gain places in higher education by helping them secure extra university entry points. The Department for Education and Skills and other universities are showing an interested in repeating the scheme around the country.
(Daily Mail)

Black students get fewer firsts at Cambridge
White students are seven times more likely to take first-class degrees at Cambridge University than their black peers. A four-year study by the university has found that although 23.7 per cent of students from Indian families and 21 per cent of white students were awarded firsts, 3.1 per cent of black undergraduates got the top mark. Only 2.4 per cent of whites gained third-class degrees, compared with 15.6 per cent of blacks. A member of the university's education faculty said that the performance difference is marked enough to cause concern, but that it is a problem throughout the education system.

Birds may teach us how to talk
A researcher at Duke University in North Carolina has identified and mapped seven parts of the brain responsible for learning and imitating sounds in parrots, hummingbirds and finches. As human beings have similar structures, which are used in speech and language, the work paves the way for new strategies to help people who have lost the ability to speak because of damage to those critical areas of the brain. (Times, Guardian)

Art gene gave us the edge
An explosion of art, culture and individual expression that took place in Africa between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago may have been triggered by changes to a single gene, according to an anthropologist from Stanford University in California. He reported yesterday to the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference that recent breakthroughs in genetics, in particular the discovery of the first gene linked conclusively to language, suggest strongly that Homo sapiens ' cultural revolution began with one or more genetic mutations that transformed the ability to communicate.
(Times, Daily Mail, Guardian)

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