Today's news

May 20, 2003

Cambridge education flagship had serious flaws
A flagship education project, backed by £65 million in public funds, was set up with "several serious weaknesses", according to a private assessment by Sir John Bourn, auditor-general. CMI, a company jointly owned by Cambridge University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, started operations in 2000 with the personal support of Gordon Brown, the chancellor. The institute, based in Cambridge, was designed to make the UK economy more competitive, productive and entrepreneurial and build on MIT's record in the US. George Osborne, the MP whose questions prompted Sir John's response, said yesterday he hoped to get the Commons public accounts committee, of which he is a member, to look at the project more closely.
(Financial Times)

Business needs to get closer to education
Successful alliances between higher education institutions and business cannot be achieved through funding alone, but also need to be rooted in teaching and research, according to the universities' submission to the Treasury-initiated Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration. According to University UK, firms wanting to innovate, grow and maximise their advantage need to be more involved with the design and delivery of courses. The UUK paper also recommends that HE institutions should develop and tailor training so that students seeking work within business are equipped with the necessary skills. In response to the review, Unico, the university companies' association, urges the government to introduce a "university tax credit" as an incentive for businesses to increase their engagement.

Oxbridge tops Guardian college league tables
Cambridge tops today's Guardian university league tables , which also show many former polytechnics performing strongly in traditional subjects. Oxford has to settle for second place and London confirms its regional pre-eminence with five of the top 10 places in the overall ranking, compiled for the Guardian by Brian Ramsden, former head of the Higher Education Statistics Agency, and Rosa Scoble of Brunel University.

DNA study says chimps should be classified as humans
A molecular comparison of the chimpanzee with man at the level of their DNA has concluded that they should both be classified as members of the human genus Homo. Chimpanzees have traditionally been classified as belonging to the pongid family as they were considered to be closer to other non-human primates, such as gorillas and orang-utans, but the latest study by researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit puts chimps close enough to humans for them to become practically indistinguishable. Some of the most important genes share about 99.4 per cent of their genetic sequence, bringing them far closer together than the 98 per cent similarity that previous studies have suggested.

Immune group in Uganda raises Aids vaccine hopes
Scientists believe an effective Aids vaccine may be a step closer after studying an unexpected response to the HIV virus in individuals in Uganda who appear to be immune. Just over two dozen people near Lake Victoria have been found to remain uninfected even though they have unprotected sex with HIV-positive partners, a phenomenon termed "discordant couples". Researchers in Entebbe found that the immune systems of the 28 resistant individuals behaved in surprising ways, which, it is hoped, will point the way to a vaccine within 10 years.

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