Today's news

September 5, 2003

Students no longer need to fear the third degree
The third-class degree, once a badge of honour for gentleman scholars, is vanishing from universities. Figures released by Cambridge University showed that just 3 per cent of this year's finalists received the lowly classification. Forty years ago the proportion was 22 per cent. Over the same period the number of students gaining first-class and upper second degrees has more than doubled to 22 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.
Read the full story in The THES.
(THES, Times)

Top-up fees are fairest for the poor, says Blair
Tony Blair yesterday warned leftwing critics of his plans for £3,000-a-year student top-up fees that their alternative amounts to asking low-paid workers who do not attend universities to subsidise middle-class children's college bills. He accused the Conservatives - who say they would repeal top-up fees - of wanting "to stop a lot of working-class kids" from going to university at all, and the Liberal Democrats of forcing them to go to their nearest university.

Government plans to bury CO2 under North sea
Ministers are considering piping carbon dioxide waste from power stations and pumping it beneath the seabed in an attempt to meet greenhouse gas targets. Environmental groups say the proposals are unsafe, unproven and will divert funds away from research needed to develop such renewable energy sources as wave and wind power. The DTI report estimates the storage scheme would put between 1p to 2.3p on the price of a unit of electricity - about the same as the cost of developing renewable energy systems.

Britain's woodlands in need of foreign implants
Leading scientists gathering in Perth yesterday for a conference on woodland genetics said that our native trees are unable to cope with dry spells, as shown by their yellowing leaves. Ecologists at English Nature and the Forestry Commission believe that soaring temperatures and water shortages will make it necessary to import entirely new species, such as walnut and almond and French or Spanish oaks.

Sleuthing students solve Wodehouse castle mystery
Two geographers at the Royal Geographical Society Conference in London say they have solved a mystery that has intrigued P G Wodehouse fans: the site of Blandings Castle, home of the fictional Clarence, 9th Earl of Emsworth. The duo from University College London used the latest computer technology to pinpoint Apley Hall in Shropshire, challenging previous favourites in the Telford area.
(Independent, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Times)

First East Enders were 6ft sharks
Swaying palm trees, shallow warm waters and 6ft sharks are not normally associated with London's East End. But new evidence, announced yesterday by scientists at the Natural History Museum, shows that 55.5 million years ago Stratford was a sub-tropical paradise with a climate similar to that of today's South China seas. A selection of the fossils will be on display at the Fossil Roadshow on Sunday at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.
(Daily Telegraph)

Aboriginal art at Ayers Rock vanishing
Australian scientists are being asked to help to preserve ancient Aboriginal rock art at Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, which is vanishing because of wind, rain and vandalism. A team from Melbourne University has started working with the Anangu, the traditional owners of Uluru, to document the paintings for posterity.

New clue to Sars origin
Genetic detectives have made an important step towards finding the origin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - the first global pandemic of the 21st century. Sars-like viruses have been found in civet cats, raccoons and ferret badgers in the market at Guangdong, China, according to a report today in the journal Science.
(Daily Telegraph)

Man who changed the face of CUP dies
Brooke Crutchley, who in his 28 years as Cambridge University printer changed the face of the publisher, has died aged 96.
(Guardian, Times)

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