Today's news

October 18, 2004

UN cloning ban vote divides Britain and US
Britain and America are squaring off against each other for a crucial debate at the United Nations this week which could result in a controversial international convention to ban stem cell research using cloned human embryos. US President George Bush has asked countries to vote for a convention banning all forms of human cloning. Britain, meanwhile, wants a ban on the cloning of babies while allowing limited cloning for stem cells. British opposition to the blanket ban proposal is led by the Royal Society, the science academy, which has accused President Bush of exploiting the UN for domestic purposes.

UK scientists raise spectre of babies with three parents
Babies could be born with a third biological parent under planned research by British scientists to prevent mothers passing degenerative genetic diseases to their children. Newcastle University experts want to implant part of an embryo taken from an affected mother in an egg from another woman to ensure the child is free from such conditions. Researchers have applied to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for permission to experiment on human embryos discarded during IVF treatment, following successful studies on mice.

Tories plan return to exam 'golden age'
A strict quota would be placed on the number of students gaining top exam grades by the Conservatives, Michael Howard will announce today. The Tory leader will set out plans to turn back the clock to the "golden age" of exams, with an end to multiple resits of A-level modules and a return to grades based on examinations at the end of the two-year course. Mr Howard will set out an eight-point plan to restore confidence in the existing exam system to coincide with the far-reaching proposals of Mike Tomlinson, the chairman of the Working Group 14-19 Reform, to replace GCSEs and A levels with diplomas.

'Shocking ignorance' about 1066 and all that
Many people do not know the most basic facts about the British monarchy and its history, research reveals today. Twenty nine per cent of adults did not even know that Windsor was the official name of the Royal Family. On each of the 10 questions asked in a poll to accompany a Channel 4 series on the monarchy, 15- to 24-year-olds were far less likely than older people to know the correct answer. The survey, which involved nearly 2,000 people, "appears to raise the question of how and where we acquire our general knowledge of history", said Channel 4, which commissioned the research.
Daily Telegraph

Scots defend place in history after Starkey gibe
The historian and broadcaster David Starkey was accused of "stupid English prejudice" yesterday after he denounced Scotland as a tiny, unimportant country. His sweeping dismissal of the impact of Scots on the Empire, science and the industrial revolution coincided with his new television series on the history of the English monarchy. Fellow historians, however, suggested that the remarks were not worthy of a Cambridge University academic.

Primary mistake in our tertiary education
Katie Grant says that instead of diminishing the academic prowess of our universities we should first do something about the disgraceful university entrance records of some of our schools.

Race hots up to find the best graduates
Special report on graduate recruitment.
Financial Times

Higher education items in the weekend press
- Former Manchester University head Sir Martin Harris has been named as director of the Office for Fair Access to universities. Times , October 16
- 'Offtoff' chief narrowly escaped prosecution for kerb crawling. Mail on Sunday
- Controversial Euro MP Godfrey Bloom has been accused of making sexual advances to members of the Cambridge University women's rugby team. Sunday Mirror
- Aspiring doctors who cannot find places on British courses are paying up to £18,000 a year to be trained abroad. Sunday Telegraph
- The electoral commission is urging students to make their voices heard at the next election. Guardian , 16 October
- Feature considering at whether 1960s egalitarianism should be abandoned in favour of new academic elitism. Financial Times , October 16

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