Today's news

February 12, 2004


V-cs put case for cash to keep UK competitive
Universities in England and Northern Ireland need a 30 per cent increase in expenditure to boost student numbers, maintain international competitiveness and prevent ageing buildings from deteriorating, Ivor Crewe, president of Universities UK, said yesterday. In addition, he said that a one-off capital sum of £3.75 billion was needed "simply to get their infrastructure in order". The result is a mighty bid for the new spending round of an additional £8.79 billion for 2006-07 and 2007-08, due to be settled this summer. Scottish and Welsh universities will submit separate bids. The request involves an extra £2.32bn of recurrent funding for 2006-07, on top of the £7.2 billion universities currently spend after tuition fees, followed by an additional £2.72 billion for 2007-08. ( Times Higher, Financial Times, Independent, Times ) 

Extra grades on horizon in A-level rejig
The top grades at A level should be replaced by a more detailed set of scores to enable universities to differentiate between thousands of highly qualified applicants, according to a report to be presented to ministers next week. A government taskforce charged with reviewing ages 14-19 education will put forward the option of "recalibrating" high grades, possibly replacing As and Bs with numbers one to four or five, a source close to the review has told the Times Higher Education Supplement .
( Times Higher, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Times )

Sinn Fein attacks UU over Hutton prize
University of Ulster plans to confer an honorary degree on Lord Hutton have been attacked by Sinn Fein. The party is demanding that the university reconsider the award of a law doctorate in this summer’s graduation ceremonies, not because of his controversial report, but over his legal role in Northern Ireland. The republican criticism centres on the law lord's involvement in the Province’s non- jury former Diplock courts and in the "supergrass" trials involving alleged paramilitary informers, according to a report in The Times Higher Education Supplement today.
( Times Higher, Times )

Applicants soar for 'caring' degrees
The first University and Colleges Admissions Service figures for 2004 admissions, published today, show dramatic increases in people studying nursing (up 23 per cent), pre-clinical medicine (up 21.7 per cent), and social work (up 94.6 per cent following the introduction of an undergraduate option). The figures are part an overall increase in student applications of 3.4 per cent from last year.
( Guardian, Independent )

Clone breakthrough may lead to gene cures
Scientists from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Seoul National University in Korea have paved the way for the possible cure of many genetic diseases and even grow-your-own-organ transplants after announcing yesterday they have extracted stem cells from a cloned human embryo for the first time. Writing in the journal Science , the team said they created the clone using eggs and cumulus cells donated by Korean women. The research means therapeutic cloning is now a reality, although some scientists have said it is a long way off in practice.
( Guardian )

Smoking linked to impotence in young men
Studies show that smoking may cause impotence through damage to the blood circulatory system caused by exposure to the many toxins in cigarettes, according to a report published yesterday by the British Medical Association. It estimates that 120,000 men aged between 30 and 50 in the UK are impotent because of the effects of smoking. It recommends that both partners should stop smoking before they attempt to conceive a child and that pregnant women should be entitled to stay off work with full pay if their employer cannot guarantee them protection from inhaling other people's cigarette smoke, which could harm their unborn child.
( Guardian )

Museum's forgotten fossil was first flier
A tiny fossil forgotten in a museum drawer for 76 years is the oldest known insect in the world and may have been the first creature to fly. Michael Engel, an evolutionary biologist at Kansas University, who reports the discovery today in the journal Nature , came across the fossil by accident in the Natural History Museum, London, while researching a book on insects. The discovery pushes back the date of the earliest known insect by 30 million years and suggests insects were among the first to colonise the land.
( Daily Telegraph )

Inquiry launched as Beagle pronounced dead
Beagle 2 , the British £45 million Mars probe that has been silent since Christmas Day, was officially declared missing, presumed dead yesterday. The European Space Agency has launched an inquiry.
( Daily Telegraph, Guardian )

Patent Office pending
Ron Marchant, chief executive of the Patent Office, has indicated that he is prepared to offer a forum to try to ease problems expected to result from differences between universities and business over proposals in the Lambert Report to increase the commercial emphasis on research.
( Daily Telegraph )

Opinion: a right Royal rumpus
Vivienne Parry compares and contrasts neuropharmacologist Susan Greenfield and physiologist Nancy Rothwell in the Royal Society fellow stakes, and asserts that Rothwell will be first over the finishing line. Greenfield's drawback is her "in-your-face Sunday supplement" media profile, she says.
( Guardian )

Too few women at the top is not just a science problem
This year marks the anniversary of a unique event in UK science. It is 40 years since Dorothy Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry and became the only British woman so far to win the ultimate accolade in science. Feature story exploring why this is the case.
( Guardian )

Exeter aims for the top
Feature on how Exeter University is restoring its fortunes after its research rating plummeted.
( Independent )

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