Today's news

September 23, 2003

Task force suggests universities should explain rejection
Universities may in future routinely tell unsuccessful applicants why they have been rejected, the head of a government-appointed task force said yesterday. Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Brunel University, was speaking on the eve of the publication today of a higher education discussion document exploring ways of attracting students from a wider range of social backgrounds. Professor Schwartz denied that the task force was trying to introduce a new form of social engineering by recommending positive discrimination policies that might involve, for example, universities taking students from poor-performing state schools who had lower grades than their better educated peers.
Taskforce proposals include:
• Post-qualifications admissions, which would involve students applying armed with actual rather than their predicted results
• Additional testing, such as American-style SATS or psychometric tests
• More use of GCSE data
• School performance data or school type to indicate the potential of a students
• US-style 'top X%' programmes under which students in top X% are guaranteed places.
(Guardian, Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail)

Building delays leave Liverpool undergraduates homeless
Some 195 new university students have been forced to spend freshers' week up to 20 miles from campus because a building firm failed to complete their hall of residence in time. The National Union of Students said the failure of Unite to complete its new Grand Central building in Liverpool raised new doubts about the involvement of private firms in education. The students are likely to be forced to stay in hotels, at the company's expense, until at least the end of this week.
(Daily Telegraph)

Scientists oppose Cambridge primate lab proposal
Nine academics write that experiments on primates cannot be justified in view of the important biological differences between people and primates. They argue that although the Cambridge University proposal to build its new primate laboratory would undoubtedly reap financial benefits, it would not benefit human medicine.
(Daily Telegraph)

Pay strike hits London freshers
Freshers' week at the University of London is being disrupted as lecturers step up strike action over pay. A series of two-day strikes starting today is being targeted at the period in which 150,000 students register.  
(Evening Standard)

Half of students take term job
One in two students now has a part-time job to make ends meet at university and most believe tuition fees are unfair, a survey showed yesterday. The proportion of undergraduates who work during term time has risen to 53 per cent from 48 per cent in 2002, the latest NatWest Student Money Matters Survey showed. Six out of ten said tuition fees - currently at a maximum of £1,125 a year - were not fair. The survey also showed graduate debt jumped sharply in the past 12 months from £5,636 to £8,125, while 28 per cent left owing more than £10,000, up from 9 per cent in 2002.

Scientists demand ban on baby cloning
Cloning human beings should be the subject of a worldwide ban, leading scientists from across the globe urged the United Nations yesterday. "Animal studies on reproductive cloning show a high incidence of foetal disorders and spontaneous abortions, and of malformation and death among young newborns," said Lord May, president of the Royal Society.
(Daily Mail, Times, Guardian)

Cancer vaccine helps patients live longer
A revolutionary vaccine is raising hopes of a cure for pancreatic cancer, which kills nearly all sufferers within two years. A vaccine, designed to make the tumour self-destruct, is credited with keeping a number of patients alive and disease-free beyond two years, a New York researcher told delegates at the European Cancer Conference in Copenhagen.
(Daily Mail, Independent, Daily Telegraph)

Other higher education items
How to make your Ucas application stand out from the crowd (Guardian) • Why the new principal of Ruskin College needs to be a skilled diplomat (Guardian) • Universities can do more to help academics balance work and home life (Guardian) • University of Buckingham vice-chancellor Terence Kealey attacks Tory HE policy (Guardian) • Conor Ryan, former special adviser to education secretary Blunkett offer the government his advice on top-up fees (Guardian).

Conservative historian dies
Lord Blake of Braydeston, historian and provost of The Queen's College, Oxford, died on September 20, aged 86.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

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