Today's news

March 4, 2003

Class gap target for universities is ditched
Higher education minister Margaret Hodge has been forced to retract a specific pledge on closing the class gap in universities under pressure from Charles Clarke, the education secretary. Ms Hodge said last week on a visit to China that she was going to set a target to close the gap between the number of students from upper-middle class families and working-class families going to university by 2010. Mr Clarke and education officials believe the department already has enough targets, some of which they are struggling to meet.
(Independent, Guardian)

Clarke pledge on two-year degrees
Education secretary Charles Clarke will today pledge that two-year, employer-led degrees are to be the "major vehicle" for expanding university education to include half the population by 2010. Mr Clarke, who will accept an honorary foundation degree at Wolverhampton University to go with his Cambridge honours degree, rounded on critics of the new degrees and insisted they were not "second class". The government will supply £20 million a year by 2005-06 to offer bursaries to students doing foundation degrees to "break the traditional pattern of demand" that sees most students opt for the three-year degree.
(Financial Times)

Nobel prize-winner warns of genetic apartheid
Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel prize-winner and chief executive of Cancer Research UK, will today spell out his fears of a future of "genetic apartheid" where those with low-grade DNA could be stigmatised. Sir Paul, also chairman of the Royal Society's Science in Society Programme, predicts that in 20 years, it will be technically possible to sequence the genome of each new baby. Children could then be given a "genetic identity card". While this would enable people to seek preventative measures and adopt healthier lifestyles, Sir Paul warns it could also lead to a sinister form of separation.
(Independent)

NHS research at risk, report warns
The huge contribution made by universities to the National Health Service was being put at risk by government plans to concentrate research in the very best departments, university leaders warned today. In a report entitled Partners in Care , Universities UK, which represents the vice-chancellors, said universities were not only educating healthcare professionals but researching treatments and caring for patients. If funding for departments rated 4 or below was cut, as much as 60 per cent of community-based clinical research in England would be affected, said Universities UK. For Wales and Northern Ireland, there would be no funding for research activity at all.
(Guardian)

Research and investment may shift outside Europe
The European Round Table of Industrialists, a forum of 45 heads of Europe's largest industrial companies will warn this week that if governments do not invest in new centres of excellence and raise the status and supply of scientists in Europe, their companies will shift research and investment outside the European Union.
(Financial Times)

Science perfects the pancake toss
Physics students from Leeds University have come up with a scientific formula that should produce the perfect pancake toss. The equation reveals that the secrets of crêpe aeronautics lie in the wrist action and the correct angle and speed of the pancake. Put simply, it states that the shorter the arm of the pan handler, the more strenuous and faster the flip required to achieve proper lift-off and a satisfactory landing.
(Times, Guardian)

Oxford college bans alcohol
The image of the modern undergraduate as a debt-obsessed workaholic concerned only with a career in management consultancy has taken a knock from students at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. It was disclosed yesterday that an alcohol ban has been imposed at all the college's undergraduate social events after an outbreak of decidedly anti-social behaviour. The dean, Robert Whittaker, acted in response to a series of "deplorable incidents" in which drunken students left trails of vomit, urine and other bodily products around its hallowed environs. They are also accused of rude and insulting behaviour toward college staff and kebab throwing.
(Daily Telegraph, Times)

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