Today's news

March 25, 2003

Research funding wasted, say MPs
Dozens of the best medical scientists are being starved of money because the government's funding body prefers to support speculative projects that may never help human health, a committee of MPs has found. The Medical Research Council, which distributes more than £400 million of taxpayers' money annually, is squandering resources on long-term schemes that are years away from producing useful results, according to a scathing report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.
(Times, Financial Times)

Rich universities to get richer
One spin-off effect of top-up fees will be UK universities borrowing more to finance new student accommodation and teaching facilities, a leading financial analyst believes. But a report published today by Standard & Poor's predicts mixed fortunes for different universities under the impact of the government's white paper and an increase in mergers and closer collaborations as institutions scramble to improve their research ratings, attractiveness to students and financial stability. The rich will get richer or, as credit ratings analysts put it, "credit diversification is set to continue".

Lecturers at Oxford oppose top-up fees
Oxford lecturers will today urge the university's ruling body to reject the Government's top up fees. A special meeting of the university's congregation has been convened to decide whether the university should take a lead in opposing the fees of up to £3,000 a year. Already 40 lecturers, including nine professors, have signed a motion opposing the top-up fees.
(Daily Telegraph)

Bristol University's admissions policy defended
Claims that independent school pupils are discriminated against by Bristol University's admissions policies are "exaggerated wildly", a leading expert on university admissions said yesterday. Brian Heap, who has produced a guide to university degree courses for 33 years, argued against a boycott of the university, which has been advocated by some schools. In an interview he said that he had advised several independent school pupils to apply to Bristol this year "and they have got in".

How the other half learns
The theory that only 'posh duffers' go to private school is tested.

Super-test to confound crammers
Oxford, Cambridge and University College London are to use a new "super-test" to select applicants for medical, veterinary and biomedical science courses. The test, to be sat in schools and colleges in November, has been developed to sort out the brightest candidates from a wide range of social backgrounds and is expected to be adopted by at least five other universities next year.

Assessment versus intellect
Frank Furedi argues that the demise of proper essays and exams has made degree inflation a fact of life.

Cranberry juice a day keeps heart disease at bay
Two or three servings of cranberry juice every day raises levels of "good" cholesterol and antioxidants, reducing the risk of developing heart disease and other circulatory disorders by as much as 40 per cent, scientists from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania have discovered. Details were presented yesterday at the American Chemical Society’s annual conference.
(Times, Independent)

Tiny babies do worse in exams
A new study has linked low birth weight to poor GCSE-exam performance. Compared with teenagers of normal birth weight, those who were small when born score on average half a grade lower. The effect is greater than school or family circumstances in childhood, a team from the University of Liverpool says.

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