Today's news

March 16, 2004


Marking boycott threatens student finals
Malcolm Grant, provost of University College London, warned yesterday that forthcoming exams might have to be cancelled if academic staff press on with a marking boycott called as part of an increasingly bitter dispute over pay and conditions. He told staff in a private email that unless the boycott ended within a month, it could prove impossible to make up for lost time later in the academic year. At Birmingham, academics have been threatened with having their pay docked if they participate in the boycott.
( Guardian, Times )

Oxford opens science institute with record donation

Oxford University opens a research and teaching facility today, made possible by what it says is the largest benefaction made to a UK university by a former student. The exact value of the donation is difficult to calculate, but James Martin, a British management guru who has made a personal fortune from lecturing and writing books on information technology, is providing assets yielding $1.2 million (£670,000) a year, rising over 20 years to $2.4 million annually in perpetuity. In addition, the university says, Mr Martin is handing over shares that can be sold in the future to raise more money. The James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation is being housed for the moment in the Saïd Business School, but Mr Martin said it would eventually become a separate institute. It will employ two professors, two lecturers and several external fellows.
( Financial Times )

Schwartz call to abandon weaker universities
Senior government adviser Steven Schwartz told a seminar in London that the university funding system "protected" weaker colleges. He said students should be given scholarships or vouchers that could be used at any institution.
( Daily Mail )
Steven Schwartz: Why more graduates will make Britain greater. ( Financial Times )

Sedna puts Pluto's planet status in a spin
The most distant known member of the solar system has been detected by astronomers in a discovery that casts serious doubt on Pluto's status as a planet. The frozen world, which has been named Sedna after an Inuit goddess of the ocean, is almost as large as Pluto. If the apparent similarity in size and structure between Pluto and Sedna is confirmed, it could force astronomers to tear up the nine-planet model of the solar system that has stood since 1930.
( Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Independent )

Dozing mice hold key to sleep disorder
People who suffer from an uncontrollable tendency to fall asleep during the day may be treated by mimicking the action of a protein they lack in their brains. In the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , a team from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre say they have found that narcolepsy can be reversed in mice genetically engineered to suffer it if the chemical orexin is introduced into their brains.
( Times )

The new terrorism : Why understanding recent terror tactics is a challenge for academics.( Guardian )

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