Today's news

September 24, 2004

Learn for joy not just jobs says Howells
Kim Howells, the new higher education minister, yesterday caused a stir with his first public speech since taking up the job, by claiming that the Government's policies on higher education had become "utilitarian". Dr Howells questioned whether it was better for students to be encouraged to take degrees as a route to a well-paid job and to boost the economy rather than to enjoy learning for its own sake. In a candid admission to academics and students at the University of Westminster Dr Howells revealed that sending his two older children to university had left him "broke" and that he himself had been attracted to studying at Hornsey College of Art, north London, after seeing pictures in the Sunday Times of some "stunning" girls from the college featured with their shoe designs. He said university courses would inevitably become "products" once top-up fees kicked in, with students becoming consumers shopping around between the huge range of institutions.

Back physiotherapy no better than a chat
Regular physiotherapy for back pain is no more effective than a single hour of advice on keeping active, academics believe. A year-long study of more than 250 back pain sufferers by researchers at the University of Warwick shows that while trips to a physiotherapist made people feel they were getting better, the treatment was actually no more beneficial than a chat about lifestyles.
Times, Guardian, Independent

Sniffer dogs show a nose for cancer
A team from Amersham University, Buckinghamshire, has trained six dogs of varying breeds and ages to sniff out bladder cancer from a sample of urine. The dogs even picked up a kidney tumour in one of the control patients, who was not supposed to have cancer, which had been missed in two previous scans.
Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph

Stress research centre opens
An £18.5 million research centre to study the effects of stress was opened at Bristol University yesterday. Researchers will examine how the brain perceives stress and work on new approaches to the treatment of stress related illness, psychiatric disorders and Alzheimer's disease.

Survey into youth drug use
A survey of illegal drug use among 10 to 12-year-olds by Glasgow University, in Glasgow and Newcastle, found one in 10 had been offered drugs and one in 20 used them.

Haslam teeters on 'glass cliff' theory
Since Alex Haslam and Michelle Ryan presented their controversial "glass cliff" theory - that women are more likely to be appointed to the boards of companies in trouble than to ones where things are going well - to the British Association's annual September "festival", professor Haslam has been receiving 500 e-mails a day challenging his methodology as much as his theory.
Financial Times

Whey! We're wild, we are! Let's have some cocoa...
Feature article reporting on freshers' week at Nottingham University: "I smelt cannabis twice (not in hall). I saw some enthusiastic snogging, but no evidence of casual sexual activity. (Neither did the freshers I asked about this.) I did see a lot of heavy drinking. I left them at 3am after another party full of hyperbole and rather less action. They were drinking cocoa and looked very happy."

Hubble explodes formation theories
British astronomers, led by Andrew Bunker of the University of Exeter, have discovered that the early universe appears to have grown much more slowly than had been thought. Analysis of the Hubble Space Telescope's ultra deep field, which includes objects more than 13 billion light years from Earth, could overturn theories about how the universe evolved in its youth. The findings are published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society .

Highest icefields will not last 100 years
The world's highest ice fields are melting so quickly that they are on course to disappear within 100 years, Chinese scientists warned yesterday. After the most detailed study ever undertaken of China's glaciers, which are said to account for 15 per cent of the planet's ice, researchers from the Academy of Science said that urgent measures were needed to prepare for the impact of climate change at high altitude.

Nessie's lookalike solves long neck riddle
The fossilised skeleton of an ancient aquatic lizard which has a passing resemblance to the Loch Ness Monster has been unearthed in China. The previously unknown creature, named Dinocephalosaurus orientalis was a long-necked giant that lived 230 million years ago. The fossil was discovered in Guizhou province, China, by a team led by Chun Li, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times

A surprise legacy from Will Shakespeare
A housewife from Stockport has inherited one of the most important books in English literature from a relative whom she never knew existed. The previously unrecorded first edition of Shakespeare's plays, the 1623 First Folio of the Comedies, Histories & Tragedies , belonged to a distant cousin in London who left no will. The folio, one of only six copies in private hands, will be auctioned on October 7. Mrs Humphries hopes it will go to a museum or a university.

American runaway turns up near Loch Ness
Jing Wen Chen, the 15-year-old American runaway who bought a one-way ticket to London after a row with her parents in Missouri, was found safe and well today at a hotel near Loch Ness. Police had at first thought that she may have gone to Oxford, where she has always dreamed of studying.
Times, Daily Telegraph

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