Today's news

October 23, 2003

Elite university funding 'will hit jobs and research'

Plans by ministers to concentrate funding in a few elite universities will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs without improving the quality of research, an analysis of the sector by Universities UK, the vice-chancellors' organisation, has found. The shift in funding will have a negative effect on institutions outside the "golden triangle" of the Southeast. The study concludes that "bigger departments do not make better departments", and the productivity of individual researchers does not improve as faculties expand and does not compensate for the effects on those universities deprived of funds. Baroness Warwick, chief executive of UUK, urged ministers to rethink their policy. She said that many academics felt "betrayed" by the move, which had been obscured by the more vigorous debate on university tuition fees.
( Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Daily Mail )

Kennedy accuses Blair of betrayal over top-ups
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy yesterday accused Tony Blair of betraying the British public by preparing to break a manifesto promise not to introduce university top-up fees. The prime minister replied that he was delaying the implementation of the fees until just after the next general election because of the manifesto wording. The Lib Dem leader won cheers by telling him: "That is a lawyer's answer if ever I heard one."
( Daily Express )

France acts to sever old school tie of political elite
The French parliament will today discuss the suggestion of a reform committee to uproot the influential Ecole National d'Administration from its Parisian home and move it to Strasbourg. Reformers hope to inject a more egalitarian spirit into the powerful old boys' network and also favour abolishing the guarantee of high-flying civil service posts for all ENA graduates.
( Guardian )

Alan Wilson to be higher education director general
The first director-general for higher education at the Department of Education and Skills is to be Sir Alan Wilson, vice-chancellor of Leeds University since 1991. The appointment followed an open competition overseen by the Office of Civil Service Commissioners. When the initial competition failed to produce a result, Sir Alan was appointed after a further search.
( Financial Times )

Lord Marshall elected as chairman of Birkbeck governors
Birkbeck College, University of London, has elected Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge to serve as chairman of the governors. Lord Marshall is non-executive chairman of British Airways, a board member of HSBC Holdings and non-executive chairman of Pirelli UK plc. He succeeds Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas, provost of King's College, Cambridge.
( Daily Telegraph )

How to halt the decline of Britain's universities
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman and founder of the Sutton Trust writes that the government will have to sweeten considerably the deal for poor and middle-income students to make its top-up fees proposals acceptable to its backbenchers.
( Financial Times )

Student skydiver's team-mates held over murder
Two army cadet officers from the Royal Military College of Science in Shrivenham, Wiltshire, have been arrested on suspicion of murdering parachutist and fellow student Stephen Hilder, who fell to his death in July during the British Collegiate Parachute Association national championships after his parachute was sabotaged. The two 19-year-olds, Adrian Blair, from Cornwall, and David Mason, from Cambridge, competed in the event with Mr Hilder as a three-man team representing Bristol University.
( Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail )

'Harry Potter gene' unlocks puberty riddle
A transatlantic research collaboration has identified a gene that plays a key role in regulating the onset of puberty, one of the great mysteries of human biology. The gene, called GPR54, makes a protein that appears to trigger the cascade of hormones required for sexual reproduction. It was discovered through a combination of mouse research by Paradigm Therapeutics, a Cambridge biotech company, and human genetic analysis at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The discovery was published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine .
( Financial Times )

Don't kick the cat - she could be good for your health
Keeping a pet is a recipe for health and happiness, a leading expert on research into pet ownership said last night. In a lecture at the Royal Institution, June McNicholas of Warwick University, said that most of the health fears linked to pets were groundless. A study in Sweden, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology this week, showed that keeping a cat was not related to an increased risk of asthma. Pet-owners make fewer visits to their GP for stress-related illnesses, have fewer minor illnesses and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Children brought up with pets have better immune system function and a source of social support.
( Times )

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