Today's news

March 17, 2004


'Britain must be first for science', says Brown
Chancellor Gordon Brown yesterday promised to make Britain the world's most attractive location for science, saying boosting hi-tech business was vital to fending off the growing challenge from India and China. Speaking to an audience of industry luminaries on the eve of the budget, he called for a partnership between government, business and charities to increase spending on science as a proportion of national income in a drive for innovation and economic dynamism. Although this summer's three-year spending review is expected to leave the chancellor with little extra cash to distribute, he promised to make science a key theme, protecting the £3 billion he has already put aside for 2005 to 2006, and increasing funding further in future years.
( Guardian, Times )

Lambert airs concerns over skills levels on RDAs
Widely-varying levels of expertise among regional development agencies could limit the growth of university collaboration with business on scientific research, government adviser Richard Lambert warned yesterday. Science councils in the northwest and northeast regions had demonstrated best ways of deciding priorities for research and funding, Mr Lambert said, and should be replicated. But questions remained about other parts of England. Some universities have expressed concern that the Treasury-sponsored review of research collaboration could be part of a drive to bring more private research income into higher education to compensate for a decline in public funding.
( Financial Times )

'Give poor students entry advantage', urges Schwartz
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds should be allowed into university with lower grades than their privileged rivals, the government adviser who is leading the official inquiry into university admissions will urge. Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Brunel University, will give his backing to the practice of lower offers for poorer students in the annual Oxford, Cambridge and Royal Society of Arts lecture in London tonight.
( Independent, Financial Times )

Brown 'gave cash to US project at expense of UK universities'
Gordon Brown gave money to wealthy American universities at the expense of their poorer British counterparts, the Conservative party claimed last night after the government's spending watchdog criticised a Treasury initiative. They said the joint venture between Cambridge University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, funded by the taxpayer at a cost of £68 million, was a waste of money at a time when higher education was in crisis. Mr Brown set up the Cambridge Massachusetts Institute in 1999 as a way of promoting entrepreneurship.
( Daily Telegraph )

Cheats having a field day on campus
University of Kent sociologist Frank Furedi writes that cheating is now so rife on campuses that it is covertly accepted as part of the routine of British university life. Discussions with colleagues and chief examiners suggest that between 20 and 25 per cent of assessed work contains unacknowledged reproduction, either in whole or in part, of someone else's work. "Is it surprising that those fed on a diet of handouts never learn to appreciate the value of original work?", he asks. ( Daily Telegraph )

Payback time for graduates
Thousands of graduates will be faced with bigger monthly outgoings from the start of the new tax year as the Student Loans Company embarks on its annual debt-collecting round. Graduates who took out loans before 1998 and now earn above £21,360 can no longer defer their debt.
( Daily Mail )

Sinking Guinness bubbles are down to science
It will give reassurance on St Patrick's Day to a nation of stout drinkers that their eyes, despite the alcohol, are not deceiving them. Researchers in Edinburgh and California say that it is counter-intuitive but true: the bubbles in freshly poured pints of Guinness really do float down. Nitrogen bubbles that touch the walls of the glass experience drag, which hinders them from floating up. But bubbles in the centre of the glass rise freely, creating a circular flow that pushes the bubbles at the edge of the glass downwards.
( Guardian, Independent )

Obituaries
- Sir Malcolm Pasley, the Kafka scholar, died on March 4 2004, aged 77. ( Times )
- Keith Hopkins, the scholar who introduced sociology to classics and wrote a post-modern account of the origins of Christianity, has died aged 69. ( Daily Telegraph )
- Jake Hancock, geologist and oenologist, died on March 2 2004, aged 75. ( Independent )

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