Today's news

October 16, 2003


Top universities 'could go private', Sterling warns

Leading universities are being forced to increase the number of overseas students to subsidise home undergraduates and may end up as private institutions, vice-chancellors have warned. The £3,000 top-up fee proposed by the government will fail to solve a funding crisis that threatens their ability to compete globally, said Michael Sterling in his first interview since becoming chairman of the Russell Group of 19 research-led universities. "People may say we are an elite. But if it is an elite based on academic merit, what's wrong with that?" he said.
( Daily Telegraph )

GM crop giant quits Britain as backlash grows
The giant bio-tech firm Monsanto yesterday announced a major withdrawal from the UK amid intense opposition to genetically modified foods. The company is closing its wheat-growing operation, based in Cambridge. Monsanto bought the former government Plant Breeding Institute from Unilever in 1998, declaring that GM crops would be established within five years. Monsanto is also seeking to sell crop-breeding centres in France, Germany and the Czech Republic.
( Daily Mail, Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Financial Times )

Vandals force science firms to reduce GM research
A survey of the top ten UK scientific research centres, compiled by Tracey Brown, director of Sense about Science, shows that vandalism of GM crop experiments is costing firms thousands of pounds in extra security and insurance and resulting work being lost to rivals in the US and the Far East.
( Times, THES )

Mental-health fears for students
Urgent measures to cope with the rising number of students developing mental-health problems were called for yesterday by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. A report by Dr Mike Hobbs of the college's psychotherapy faculty says that students were having to cope with unprecedented levels of financial and academic pressures as well as a "growing competitiveness".
( Daily Telegraph )

Yorkshire wins £25m science centre
A consortium of Yorkshire universities has seen off competition from Oxford and London to win the right to run a £25 million Wellcome Trust centre that will be the flagship for the government's efforts to boost and modernise the teaching of science in schools.
( THES , Financial Times )

LSE finds that children are internet experts
The London School of Economics' media and communications department published UK Children Go Online today, believed to be the largest research exercise into children's use of the internet. Authors Sonia Livingstone and Magdelena Bober found that even in households with one or more computer-literate adults, children were often the internet experts, although they mainly used the internet to communicate with friends and relatives, and for music and games.
( Guardian )

Fame academy to face the music and dance
Trinity College of Music and the Laban school of dance are to merge into Britain's first conservatoire for music and dance, it will be announced today.
( THES, Guardian )

Researcher challenges Darwin as father of natural selection
Paul Pearson, professor of palaeoclimatology at Cardiff University, says there is no doubt that James Hutton, a gentleman farmer, had independently formulated the theory of natural selection 60 years before Charles Darwin. "Although he never used the term, Hutton clearly articulated the principle," Pearson said.
( Independent )

Unlocking secrets of an engineering pioneer
Forensic scientists and bioarchaeologists at Bradford University have been given a sample of the hair taken from Robert Stephenson, one of Britain's pioneering engineers. Aided by colleagues from other universities, they will test claims that he was a drug addict who may have died of mercury poisoning.
( Times, Guardian )

Heart attacks plunge as US town bans smoking
When the town of Helena, Montana, banned smoking in public in June 2002, heart attack rates plunged by almost 60 per cent. But when the prohibition was lifted after six months, researchers noticed that the rate quickly bounced back to its previous level. The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society are using the study to back calls to ban smoking in all public buildings.
( Daily Mail )

Living fossil frog discovered
A purple burrowing frog whose ancestors hopped at the feet of the dinosaurs has been found by Belgian and Indian researchers in the Western Ghats hills of Kerala, southern India. The "living fossil", Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis , described in the journal Nature , takes the number of frog families to 29, covering 4,800 species.
( Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph )

Atlas says mountains are shrinking
In the latest edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World , published today, leading peaks have had their heights revised downward. The increased use of the Global Positioning System has superseded previous methods allowing more accurate mountain measurements. Among the mountains to lose height is Tanzania's Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua in the Andes, Mount Cook in New Zealand and Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain.
( Daily Telegraph )

Other higher education items
Plymouth University is cementing links with US colleges ( Independent )  · Professor Anthony Pople, a music theorist who lectured at Lancaster, Southampton and Nottingham University has died, aged 48 after long illness ( Independent ) · MBA special ( Independent )

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