Today's news

May 13, 2004

Dollars lure scientists Down Under
Fears for the future survival in UK universities of "problem" subjects such as chemistry were reignited this week as it emerged that a campaign to lure top researchers to Australia is robbing Cambridge of four top scientists. Andrew Holmes, a leading polymer chemist and fellow of the Royal Society, confirmed that he would be leaving Cambridge for Melbourne University. He will be taking a large part of his research team with him, and has already been approached by a number of other UK scientists who want to follow in his footsteps.
( Times Higher, Times )

Task force sees merit in drive to tap alumni
British universities could generate an extra £600 million a year from fundraising but face an uphill struggle prising donations out of tight-fisted former students, a government task force chaired by Bristol University vice-chancellor Eric Thomas concludes today. The report calls on the government to consider "pump-priming" university development departments by match-funding any investments they make.
( Times Higher, Guardian, Financial Times )

University entrance proposals attacked
Plans to make university admissions "fairer" were attacked yesterday by the head of the Oxford college that rejected Laura Spence, the Tyneside comprehensive pupil, for a place to study medicine. Anthony Smith, president of Magdalen College, criticised a report on admissions published by a government-backed task force led by Stephen Schwartz. He said it risked turning higher education into a "branch of social welfare." He told the Brighton College conference of independent schools that universities should be left to establish their own ways of ensuring fair admissions policies.
( Times )

£75K to lead top secret institute
An unexceptional advertisement buried in the job pages of The Times Higher two weeks ago has revealed a joint initiative between GCHQ, the government communications headquarters based in Cheltenham, and Bristol University.  The electronic surveillance arm of the British intelligence service is establishing an institute filled with the UK's best mathematical brains for national security work in coding, cryptography and data encryption. There are fears that it could lead to a brain drain of key talent out of universities to GCHQ.
( Times Higher, Times )

Schwarzenegger brokers university funding deal
Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has brokered an agreement under which the University of California and California State University systems will swallow yet another round of cuts in the fiscal year starting in July. Universities will be guaranteed a steady, modest increase in funding, allowing them to step up enrolment, restore teachers' salaries to more competitive levels and cap undergraduates' fee increases at 10 per cent. In return, college administrators will accept greater accountability, as well as goals including a commitment to step up output of mathematics and science teachers and to shorten the average graduation time for students.
( Financial Times )

Females edged out at Iraqi university
Students and professors at Basra University say that four fundamentalist groups are operating on the university's south campus. These groups guard the university gates to ensure its 23,000 students adhere to strict Islamic codes of conduct and are also recruiting male students into their parties. "The staff are feeling pressure to participate in recruiting, the deans are politically active and so is the internal security force on campus. The whole structure needs to be dismantled," said one professor at the university.
( Financial Times )

Reckless professor escapes jail term
One of Britain’s most distinguished medical researchers snapped a hotel manager's arm in three places during a drunken scuffle on the eve of his wedding, a court was told yesterday. But James Scott, 57, an expert in genetics and heart disease, was not given a jail sentence because the judge considered that the injuries had not been inflicted intentionally. Scott is clinical professor at the National Heart and Lung Institute and director of Imperial College’s Genetics and Genomics Research Institute, where he is responsible for a £25 million-a-year research budget. He is a fellow of the Royal Society.
( Times, Daily Mail, Guardian )

Chief scientist praises climate film
The Hollywood blockbuster that depicts a sudden ice age brought about by climate change is "remarkably realistic" in parts, says the government's chief scientist. Sir David King said The Day After Tomorrow , which he watched yesterday at a private screening in London, would increase the public's awareness of a threat he once described as worse than terrorism. But he added that it played fast and loose with some of the science of climate change.
( Independent, Guardian, Daily Telegraph )

Failing nursing students allowed to work
The Nursing and Midwifery Council has criticised nurse assessors for not failing students who showed a lack of clinical competence during their hospital placements. The report, Failing Students , said that weak students were often "given the benefit of the doubt" even when they had a history of problems in their work.
( Times )

Students live with vermin and gas
Students' lives and health are being put at risk by vermin and carbon monoxide poison, according to a survey by British Gas and the National Union of Students. Almost one in four students in private rented accomodation also share their home with rats, mice and fleas. More than half of private landlords fail to provide valid gas safety certificates.
( Independent, Guardian, Times Higher )

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