Today's news

February 10, 2004


Universities back bias towards deprived
The majority of universities are prepared to offer places to pupils from poor schools on the basis of lower exam grades than those they require from applicants from successful academic backgrounds, according to a government review of higher education admissions. In all, 71 per cent felt it was fair to offer a university place based on lower grades to those applicants, and 25 per cent opposed such a policy. The taskforce, chaired by Professor Steven Schwartz of Brunel University, is due to publish a report within weeks.
( Guardian, Independent )

Scotland proposes visas for foreign graduates
Foreign students could be granted a special visa to remain in Scotland for two years after graduation under Scottish executive proposals to halt a population decline. The visa would give students more time to find jobs, increasing the six-month grace period allowed under current rules. The proposal is among measures backed by Jack McConnell, first minister, as current trends suggest the population will fall to 5 million within six years. He made the demographic crisis a political priority last February, identifying the fall and an ageing population as a critical impediment to growth.
( Financial Times )

Future of the RAE is in the stars
After more than a year of anticipation, academics throughout the UK will tomorrow discover the new rules of their favourite blood sport - the research assessment exercise. A shake-up of the 18-year-old system of grading the quality of UK universities' research has been on its way since the four funding councils commissioned a report from Sir Gareth Roberts, president of Wolfson College, Oxford. After wide consultation with the research community, he unveiled his vision of how the RAE should be in May 2003. With over £1 billion annually to play for, the stakes are high. Roberts proposed that only those departments confident of doing very good research should go through the full RAE process, the "red channel" with something to declare; others would take the "green channel" in return for modest but guaranteed funding; while those universities that get less than 2 per cent of their funding for research should simply not bother.
( Guardian )

Colleges can't get no satisfaction
The Association of Colleges has come out in opposition to an amendment to the higher education bill, proposed by Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis, that would extend the role of the proposed independent adjudicator for complaints from university students to cover complaints from all students over the age of 16. "Our current complaints system works well," says the AoC's chief executive, John Brennan. "These new proposals for an adjudicator have been developed for the higher education sector to deal with the complexity of their system. We think it is unacceptable to impose changes on us without any proper research or consultation."
( Guardian )

UN warns of growing threat to 'cloud forests'
Urgent action is needed to preserve the world's "cloud forests", the lush mountain forests that harbour numerous endangered species and often play a vital role in supplying fresh water, the United Nations Environment Programme warned yesterday. Cloud forests are under threat from agriculture, road-building and climate change, according to a study launched at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the international conservation treaty, in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The economic and ecological importance of cloud forests is out of all proportion to their size which, in total, cover just 400,000 square km, or less than 2.5 per cent of the world's tropical rain forests.
( Financial Times )

Letter : Vernon Bogdanor say that Yale's president was right to reject advice on university funding from Oxford academics. ( Financial Times )

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