Today's news

October 14, 2004

Middlesex abolishes exams for first-years
Middlesex University has abandoned exams for first-year degree students in what critics claim is an unprecedented move to make it easier for students to pass. A memo leaked to The Times Higher reveals that the university is moving to "100 per cent coursework" for first-year modules. Middlesex confirmed this week that traditional tests in formal exam conditions have been dropped for all first-year courses except where an exceptional case has been made to the academic board. Times Higher, Daily Mail, Times

Patten issues warning over admissions targets
Chris Patten, the Chancellor of Oxford University, has said that the Government's "appalling" policy of forcing universities to take more state school pupils is as serious a threat to a free society as curbing the freedom of the press. In an interview marking the end of his five-year term as European Commissioner for International Affairs, Mr Patten said that unless the Government changed its policies, it would force Oxford, Cambridge and other universities to go private and sever their link with the state.

Ivory tower inferno
A look at why universities are protesting about new official benchmarks that monitor their stat-school intake.

Unite sells student blocks to Morley
Student accommodation gained new respectability as a class of investment yesterday as Unite Group announced it had sold four of its blocks of student housing to Morley Fund Management for £49.35 million. This is the first time the UK's largest student landlord has sold a substantial part of its portfolio into the secondary market. The four blocks sold are located in Bristol, Leeds and Newcastle, comprising a total of 1,246 beds.
Financial Times

Postgraduate supplement
A look at master's degree funding, NewRoutePhDs, the new code of practice for postgraduate programmes and using a master's course to carve a career niche.

Scientists may have solution to superbug
A chemical that renders the hospital superbug MRSA vulnerable to conventional antibiotics has been discovered by British researchers. The findings, by a team led by Michael Levey at the drug company Pharmaceutica in Worcestershire, are published in New Scientist magazine.
Daily Telegraph

Secret of sound found
US scientists have found a protein that is the key to how the ear converts sound into electrical impulses to the brain and also controls balance. It is found on the tips of tiny hairs in the inner ear and charged by positive ions to release an electrical signal. Some forms of deafness could benefit they predict.
Times, Daily Telegraph

A second language adds to grey matter
Learning a second language makes the brain grow denser, with the region dealing with language packing in more grey matter in direct proportion to the number of years spent studying. The research is reported today in the journal Nature by a team from University College, London.
Daily Telegraph

Chocolate for sweethearts
Chocolate could one day be taken seriously as a medicine to treat or prevent heart disease, according to a review in The British Journal of Cardiology . Some cocoa and chocolate products are extraordinarily rich in flavanols - a class of natural compounds that contribute to the health of the arteries.

Why coffee is the cat's whiskers
The origin of the taste which makes kopi luwak the world's most expensive coffee has finally been unearthed. Massimo Marcone, of the University of Guelph in Ontario, has proved beyond doubt that the beans used for the authentic beans have indeed passed through the digestive tract of the cat-like civet.
Independent, Daily Telegraph

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