Today's news

November 5, 2003

The talking has to stop for Cambridge hopefuls
Dons at Cambridge University may have to abandon a centuries-old pledge to interview every applicant. Geoff Parks, director of admissions, has said that a sharp rise in candidates this year could force tutors to introduce an initial round of selection based purely on aptitude tests. Provisional figures showed that applications to the university rose by 8 per cent this year, on top of two successive years of double-digit increases. Dr Park's comments came as dons also expressed disquiet about what they described as the "creeping centralisation" of the admissions process, which they said represented a threat to the historic power of the colleges to select their own students.
( Times )

School calendar to be split into six terms
Pupils will switch to a six-term year in the next two years in the biggest shake-up of the school calendar in more than 130 years. Leaders of England's 150 local education authorities have voted unanimously in favour of introducing the timetable. The move will allow GCSEs and A levels to be brought forward to the end of the fifth term in May so pupils receive their results before they apply to universities. Up to 30 councils will pioneer the arrangements from next September.
( Independent )

Student prince leaves Oxford to fight a war
Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck of Bhutan, 19, quit his Oxford University degree yesterday to fight a war back home. He only began studying history and politics at St Peter's College four weeks ago. Unknown to his father, the prince signed up for the country's militia and completed two months' training before leaving for Oxford. Talks between Indian separatist rebels and the Bhutan government broke down this week, resulting in an outbreak of conflict and the prince's decision to return. His brother, Jigme, left Oxford last week after completing his M Phil in politics at Magdalen College.
( Daily Telegraph )

What if Guy Fawkes had got away with it?
To mark the annual celebration of the Gunpowder Plot, foiled 398 years ago today, the Institute of Physics asked scientists from the Centre for Explosion Studies at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth to work out just how much damage Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators would have done. The experts calculated that the plotters had stuffed the cellar beneath the Palace of Westminster with enough gunpowder to demolish it 25 times over.
( Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph )

One drop of blood can show diseases
A technique used to study light from distant galaxies is helping geneticists trying to diagnose diseases from a single drop of blood. Astronomers use devices called superconducting tunnel junction cameras, or S-cams. Now, co-operation between space scientists and biologists at Leicester University is enabling the same cameras to be used to analyse the colours of "gene chips".
( Times )

Obituary : Professor David Spence, the Oxford and Imperial College London mathematician who solved practical problems to advance aeronautical technology, died on September 7, 2003, aged 77.

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Recent controversy over the future directions of both Stanford and Melbourne university presses have raised questions about the role of in-house publishing arms in a world of commercialisation, impact agendas, alternative facts – and ever-diminishing monograph sales. Anna McKie reports

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