Today's news

September 30, 2004

Top universities 'blackmailed' to take state pupils
Private schools accused the Government of "blackmail" yesterday after top universities were set tough targets for the admission of students from the state sector. Vice-chancellors told Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, that the goals were unattainable unless elite universities were forced to change their admissions policies by diluting academic standards. The 19 leading universities in the Russell Group complained that they had not been consulted before the admissions benchmarks were introduced.
Times, Daily Mail
- Leader: Quotas by stealth. A disturbing attempt to influence university admissions. Times

14 per cent of students drop out of university
One in seven students now at university is predicted to drop out before they complete their degrees, according to the latest higher education performance indicators. The average dropout rate of 14.1 per cent masks huge differences between universities. Just over 1 per cent of students at Oxford and Cambridge quit their courses early, compared with 37 per cent at Napier University in Edinburgh and almost 36 per cent at Bolton Institute of Higher Education.
Times, Financial Times, Daily Mail, Guardian, Daily Telegraph
- A father writes… On the blacklist? That's the university for us. Daily Telegraph
- Read the full story (including full tables) in this weeks Times Higher: Old institutions fail on access targets

Tories to back Tomlinson exam reforms
The Conservatives plan to back major reforms to A-levels. Tim Collins, the party's education spokesman, said he expected the inquiry by Mike Tomlinson, the former chief schools inspector, into 14-to-19 education would produce "something at least as credible as the existing A-level". Mr Tomlinson, whose final report is published next month, plans to replace the existing GCSE and A-level with a new over-arching diploma.

French students offered laptops for one euro a day
The more than two million university students in France can now buy a top-of-the-range laptop at a cost of just €1 (70p) a day. The scheme, promoted by the education ministry with the help of banks and computer manufacturers, is intended to increase the number of students with computers so university inscriptions and some studies can be transferred to the internet. Only 160,000 of the 2.2 million students in France have their own computers. François Fillon, the education minister, hopes to at least double this number by June next year.

London to leapfrog its French connection
A bold plan to revive the University of London's institute in Paris could inspire more British students to cross the Channel to learn French - and bring in extra income. The institute is to get a name change and a makeover. Two London University colleges - Queen Mary and Royal Holloway - are going into partnership with it. "We're going to make the institute leapfrog into the 21st century," said Sir Graeme Davies, vice-chancellor of the University of London.
Daily Telegraph

Deloitte funds gap-year students to tap talent
As competition to recruit the best graduates hots up, Deloitte is paying students to backpack around Australia in an effort to attract people with more than just academic ability. This month, 26 A-level students have begun the scheme. They are being paid 75 per cent of the graduate salary to work in tax, audit or consulting at Deloitte for seven months and then pocket a £1,500 travel bursary to finish off their gap year with a bit of fun. Thereafter they receive a £1,000-a-year academic bursary plus four weeks' work at 85 per cent of the graduate salary for each year of their university course.

Accountancy firms collar the top dogs
Mention the phrase "chartered accountancy" and all too often the words "boring" and "bean-counter" are not far behind. But accountancy is Britain's largest employer of top graduates and is a highly sought-after destination for those wanting to work in business, finance or commerce. Across the whole accounting sector, business is booming. Within the Big Four, KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers, vacancies are set to increase by nearly 25 per cent in 2005, which means nearly 3,000 training places for next year’s new or recent graduates.

Subject to change
Feature article investigating whether Charles Clarke's proposed funding subsidies will put an end to the science crisis.

What not to do...
Graduate recruitment websites under the spotlight.

Madonna's university challenge
Having pretty much conquered the world of pop, Madge is set to read literature at Oxford University. The Material Girl is to further her knowledge of British literary greats such as Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen by studying for a Bachelor of Arts qualification. But undergraduates should not get too excited about sharing halls of residence with Madonna - she will be doing the course from home.

Women could overtake men in the short run
Women sprinters may be out-running men in the 2156 Olympics, according to scientists from the Department of Zoology at Oxford University. If female athletes continue to close the gap with men at the rate they are doing, they could be leaving them behind in another 150 years, the team says in the journal Nature . The researchers calculated that by 2156 a woman sprinter could cover the 100m in 8.079 seconds. That would put women ahead of their male colleagues, who are expected to manage a best result of 8.098 seconds.
Scotsman, Times, Daily Mail, Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph

Near-miss asteroid could have wiped out London
An asteroid measuring nearly three miles across squeezed past Earth by the astronomical equivalent of a hair's breadth yesterday. The flypast, by the asteroid Toutatis, was the closest it will make this century, and one of the nearest by any object for the next 180 years. Kevin Yates of the Near-Earth Objects group at the British National Space Centre warned that even objects as small as 100 to 200 metres across could wipe out an area the size of London. "Nasa has calculated that such an object will hit the Earth about once every 700 to 1,000 years," he said yesterday.
Daily Telegraph

Scientists rumble Earth's hum
Scientists have solved the mystery of a global hum that has plagued them since it was discovered in 1998. The constant drone at low frequencies, well below the range of human hearing, shows up in seismic measurements but cannot be explained by events such as earthquakes. Writing in the journal Nature today, Junkee Rhie and Barbara Romanowicz from the University of California, Berkeley, blame the hum on stormy oceans that shake the Earth's crust.

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