Today's news

September 27, 2004

Universities introduce lessons in literacy
Lecturers at seven universities say declining levels of literacy among first-year students has led them to provide freshers with classes on essay writing. Joe Farrell, a modern languages expert at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, said a "fundamental lack of basic education" had left many students ill-equipped to deal with higher education. More than half of Scotland's universities, including Strathclyde and Aberdeen, will offer English lessons to first-year students this month to help them through their courses.
Daily Telegraph, Scotsman

Boost for research without animals
The first projects funded by a new body set up to promote animal welfare in scientific research are to be announced today, the result of a doubling in government spending on efforts to find alternatives to animal testing and minimise animal suffering. The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, set up by Lord Sainsbury in May, will pledge £500,000 next year for research projects. It will also announce funding of more than £360,000 for two projects starting this year run by Christine Nicol of Bristol University and John Roughan of Newcastle University.
Financial Times

Cut exams and split A grade, report urges
The number of public examinations taken by teenagers should be severely cut back in a shift towards "internal assessment" by teachers as part of an over-arching new diploma, a government working group will tell ministers next month. To resolve the pressing issue of how best to identify and stretch the most able students, the inquiry into 14-19 education led by Mike Tomlinson will recommend piloting a national aptitude test in schools and sub-dividing the top grade at A-level into three.

Smithers praises student profiteers
Students are using subsidised Government loans to buy cars, pay off mortgages or open high interest accounts. The loans, worth up to £5,050 a year, are designed to cover basic living expenses, travel costs and books. Alan Smithers, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said: "All credit to these students. It shows they have imagination and intelligence in spotting a good opportunity."
Daily Mail

Scientists at odds over plans to honour Einstein
On April 18 next year, scientists plan to create a global sweep of light to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Albert Einstein. But the proposal is being opposed by astronomers, many of whom spend much of their time urging people not to shine lights into the night sky because the glare obscures the faint light arriving from distant celestial objects. John Mason of the British Astronomical Society said: "Of all the ideas we could have come up with to commemorate Einstein's death, I think this one sends all the wrong messages, and I'm sure if Einstein was still alive, he wouldn't be too keen on it either." The Institute of Physics in Britain has already said it does not want to be involved.

Giant mushroom discovered in the Alps
Swiss scientists have found what they think is Europe's biggest mushroom. It is mostly underground and is thought to be 1,000 years old. It measures 800 metres by 500 metres, and consists of a network of filaments which reach out along the path of tree roots near the eastern Swiss town of Ofenpass.

£100m bid to halt university brain drain
Scotland's Finance Minister Andy Kerr is expected to unveil a £100 million a year cash pledge to Scottish universities, bringing to an end a year-long stand-off with university chiefs over fears of a north-south funding deficit. Kerr is to make the announcement in a statement later this week, when he will unveil the Executive’s spending plans for the next three years.
Scotland on Sunday

Other higher education items in the weekend press
- Jarvis has failed to complete the building of student accommodation at Lancaster University in time for the start of term. Financial Times , September 25
- Learning to budget is one of students' toughest challenges. Observer
- Generation U: Investigation of what this year's crop of students think. Observer
- New students are prey to thieves and often under-insure their belongings. Mail on Sunday
- A gap year can make the difference to struggling graduates. Guardian , September 25
- The first term at university is not too early to think about careers. Guardian , September 25
- London Metropolitan University is offering a training programme for aspiring disabled actors. Mail on Sunday
- Leeds University is offering an MA that combines business consultancy and work to improve the environment. Guardian , September 25

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