Today's news

March 11, 2004


British undergraduates will be a minority at Oxford
Oxford University's governing council has drawn up strategy documents that would recast the institution along the lines of an US-style Ivy League university, concentrating on the lucrative postgraduate market. British undergraduates will represent a minority of students at Oxford under proposals for an historic shift in the university’s role to safeguard its world-class status. Papers circulated to academics suggest that the number of home students should be cut from this September by one percentage point a year over the next five years to create more places for foreign undergraduates.
( Times Higher, Times, Independent )

Letter: Predicted influx of EU students
Higher education minister Alan Johnson refutes the claim that UK students will be squeezed out by a flood of migrants from new European Union countries.
( Daily Express )

University bans staff websites after anti-Semitism row
Academics at Birmingham University have condemned moves by the university authorities to ban 300 of their personal websites. The university's decision to stop hosting staff websites on university computers follows a series of controversies over links to allegedly anti-Semitic content. Under new guidelines, from March 31 they will have to demonstrate that content is "relevant and legitimate to their academic or administrative work". Among the 300 websites that will be taken down is one about air quality and another dedicated to genealogy; others are weblogs containing academics' CVs and publications and links to other sites.
( Guardian )

University pension fund ditches portfolio managers
Merrill Lynch and Schroders, two of the biggest names in City fund management, along with Baillie Gifford, were ditched yesterday by the University Superannuation Scheme, Britain's third largest pension fund with £19 billion of assets. Although the USS said its decision to part company was no reflection on their performance records, the loss of such a high-profile mandate will cause all three groups embarrassment. Replacing the outgoing managers are Wellington Capital Management, which will run a global equities portfolio, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which has been awarded a UK equities mandate, and Legal & General, which will provide bonds exposure.
( Times )

Bum policy straining seats of learning, says Sykes
Sir Richard Sykes, rector of Imperial College London, says that the government's "bums on seats" policy to get 50 per cent of young people into universities by the end of this decade should be abandoned and ministers should concentrate scarce resources on teaching and research at top universities. He called for greater freedom for universities to raise private income, suggesting a mechanism where half the undergraduates could be funded by state bursaries with institutions free to choose the other half from fee-paying applicants. Taxpayers' money could then be concentrated on schools, to ensure students came to university well-versed in the basics.
( Financial Times )

Where are all the students?
Feature: The government wants more people to go to university. Yet some institutions are struggling to recruit.
( Independent )

Degrees geared to construction buoyant
Higher education courses in construction are experiencing a rise in popularity, with increased numbers of people planning to study vocational subjects ranging from building to architecture this autumn. Other ways into the industry, including apprenticeships, degrees and postgraduate conversion courses, are also attracting growing interest.
( Independent )

'Safeway poisoner' gets job as ethics lecturer
A scientist who tried to poison his wife then cover his tracks by spiking drinks in a supermarket has been employed by the University of Manchester to lecture on philosophy and medical ethics to night classes for two hours a week. Paul Agutter, 57, the "Safeway poisoner", served 7 years of a 12-year sentence for attempted murder.
( Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph )

Book reopens old arguments about slave raids on Europe
North African pirates abducted and enslaved more than 1 million Europeans between 1530 and 1780 in a series of raids which depopulated coastal towns from Sicily to Cornwall, according to US historian Robert Davis. He has calculated that the total number captured - although small compared with the 12 million Africans shipped to the Americas in later years - was far higher than previously recognised. In his book, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 , he concludes that 1 million to 1.25 million ended up in bondage.
( Guardian )

Don't steady that ladder it's more dangerous
The age-old practice of getting a friend, spouse or bored child to hold the bottom of a ladder while cleaning windows, changing lightbulbs or painting the ceiling may cause more accidents than it prevents, according to a study by Laurence Clift, of Loughborough University's ergonomics and safety research unit. The practice of standing or leaning on the bottom of a ladder gives a false sense of security to the person on top. Ladder users are more likely to become reckless if someone is standing below.
( Daily Telegraph )

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