Today's news

September 23, 2004

'Duped' v-cs plot RAE revolt
An unprecedented alliance of university heads is gearing up for a fresh revolt against the 2008 research assessment exercise. Vice-chancellors believe they were duped into agreeing to the plans for the sector-wide race for research ratings and grants. Despite preparations for the 2008 RAE being under way, heads of the three main university factions are discussing alternatives, with a view to approaching the Government with proposals.
Times Higher

Livingstone attacks tuition fees
The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, risks incurring the wrath of the Labour leadership today when he launches an attack on the party's higher education policies. In a strongly-worded foreword to a report on further and higher education in the capital, Mr Livingstone states his "irrevocable" opposition to charging students tuition fees of any kind. The former Labour MP warns that the plans will price London students out of a university education and will fail to meet the needs of London's high-skill economy.
Guardian (Ken Livingstone writes in this week's Times Higher: Give everyone a fair shot in city with pulling power )

A good read, but a bit on the heavy side
It lays claim to being the greatest cultural enterprise on earth, but there was no champagne, red carpets or air kisses when new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography was launched yesterday. The successor to the Dictionary of National Biography (published 1885-1900), it stretches to 60 volumes, each set weighs 282lbs and contains more than 62 million words. It costs £7,500 and has taken 12 years to compile. The new DNB is, in the words of Colin Matthew, who was appointed editor in 1992 but died in 1999 and was replaced by Brian Harrison, "not merely a roll-call of the great and the good but also a gallimaufry of the eccentric and the bad".
Daily Telegraph, Guardian

Pay top students for learning
Britain's most intelligent students should be paid to go to university, a leading economist says. Andrew Lilico an associate lecturer at University College London suggests that to ensure the brightest pupils can afford a university education, the Government should use a scholarship and loan system for the top 35 per cent.

Universities need to square-up to Mum and Dad
Susan Bassnett, professor of comparative literature at the University of Warwick, explains why pushy parents are here to stay.

Leading article: Universities, think global
Ivor Crewe's speech to the annual meeting of Universities UK managed cleverly to set the agenda for Charles Clarke and to put him on the defensive. The president of UUK produced convincing arguments for a coherent dynamic national policy to promote UK higher education abroad.

The new man at the top of King's College London
A look at Rick Trainor, the new principal of King's College London and the reforms he intends to carry out to make his university more coherent and give it a higher profile.

Shouting outside the ivory tower
Blogging is allowing academics to develop and share their ideas with an audience beyond the universities. Over the past decade, academics have used mailing lists, discussion boards and learning journals, but these have usually existed behind university firewalls. In contrast, blogging can invite the rest of the world into the common room - and some believe that can only be a good thing.

The best university in Iraq. Imagine the rest
Feature article on the parlous state of science at Iraq's universities some 17 months after the fall of Baghdad.

Letter : Foreign students in real need should be given some leeway. Financial Times

Students aim to ignite Edinburgh nightlife
Two Edinburgh University students are hoping their new club night, called Ignition at The Opal Lounge and launched on Monday, will bring a touch of London glamour to the Scottish capital. Charlie Gilkes and Rory Stirling, who mix in the same social circles as the likes of Prince William and Pierce Brosnan's son Sean, are hoping that their George Street venue will revolutionise Edinburgh's staid nightlife.

Exercise helps women beat breast cancer
Women suffering from breast cancer beat the disease more quickly if they exercise, a team from Glasgow University has concluded. The scientists found that women who took regular physical activity recovered from the effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy more quickly. They also felt more positive about their recovery than their counterparts.

Mutant poppy makes safer drugs
Scientists have discovered a poppy that does not produce addictive drugs and are using it to make safer painkillers. Philip Larkin, of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and colleagues describe their find in today's Nature .

Mosquitoes that can't host malaria engineered
Speaking at the Biotech Bugs conference in Washington DC, Anthony James, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of California, says that strains of mosquitoes that cannot host the malaria parasite are ready to be tested outside the lab. The research is timely as mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to insecticides.

Scientists brake sheep's wind
A vaccine that prevents sheep from breaking wind has been developed by Australian scientists in an attempt to reduce global warming. In the first large-scale trials, two injections reduced flatulence and belching by about eight per cent, the researchers report in New Scientist today.
Daily Telegraph

Mediums fail to reach the other side
Is there anybody there? Not when scientists tested the powers of mediums who claim to receive messages from beyond the grave in controlled experimental conditions. Psychologists Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire and Ciaran O'Keeffe of Liverpool Hope University put five mediums to the test while ensuring they did not cheat or use psychological tricks. They found that none of the mediums recommended by the Spiritualists' National Union was able to produce accurate readings for people who were isolated in a separate room.
Guardian, Times

Gardeners' wonder-dust under the microscope
Scientists are investigating how a Scottish couple transformed a boggy Highland hillside into a garden of plenty that produces gigantic vegetables. Viewers of BBC Scotland's Beechgrove Garden will tonight see the dramatic results of Cameron and Moira Thomson’s use of rock dust on their organic garden. Scientists from Glasgow University have begun a three-year study of the Thomsons' pioneering work, which has seen gardeners from all over Scotland converted to remineralising their ground by treating it with simple rock dust.

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