Today's news

October 19, 2004

Blair insists A levels will stay in shake-up
Tony Blair and Education Secretary Charles Clarke yesterday appeared to undermine the spirit of a radical new English diploma system recommended by a government-appointed review by stopping short of giving it their unequivocal endorsement. Despite expectations that the Tomlinson report would sound the death knell for GCSEs and the "gold standard" A-level exam, the Prime Minister insisted that they would not be scrapped but would instead be "strengthened" in the most radical shake-up of exams in England for 60 years. Behind the scenes last night, there was confusion about the precise implications of the 200-page report, the outcome of an 18-month review carried out by the former chief inspector of schools, Mike Tomlinson. Guardian

Scottish Highers to stand the tests of time
Highers and Standard Grade examinations could supersede A levels and GCSEs in Scotland as the qualification of choice for independent schools if the proposals to overhaul the exams system in England go through, Chris Woodhead, former chief inspector of schools, said last night.

Dundee University moves into publishing
Dundee University yesterday announced plans to take its first tentative steps into the world of publishing. The university has joined forces with the Edinburgh-based publisher Birlinn Ltd to establish the Dundee University Press Ltd, a spin-off company that will be devoted to the publication of "quality academic books with a wide audience appeal".

Back-to-front switches blamed for space probe crash
Investigators have found that the $250 million (£139 million) Genesis space probe, which crash-landed in the Utah desert last month, failed because the switches designed to trigger its parachute were installed backwards. It is the latest in series of mistakes by Lockheed Martin Astronautics that has embarrassed Nasa. Five years ago the space agency lost two of its missions to Mars thanks to trivial mathematical errors by the company.

Air fresheners and aerosols may harm mothers and babies
Air fresheners and other household sprays could damage pregnant women and newborn babies, according to a study linking aerosols with a range of disorders in mothers and children. Although the research falls short of proving that fresheners cause ill health, scientists warn that people should use such sprays with caution. Alexandra Farrow of Brunel University said more than 40 per cent of the 10,000 families who took part in the study used air fresheners regularly.
Independent, Times

Students arrested on terror charges
Five members of a Ukrainian student group face terrorism charges after police in Kiev said they found explosives in their offices. Pora supports the main opposition candidate in the presidential elections on October 31. Police accused them of planning a campaign of disruption.

By fair means
The new head of the university access watchdog will have more limited powers than promised - to the delight of some institutions. But Sir Martin Harris, Offa's new director, hopes that all universities will have agreed a fair access plan by next January.

Class bias in Oxbridge admissions policies
Various letters commenting on Sir Martin Harris's remarks that class should play a role in determining university admissions policy.

Top scholar
The university that never sleeps - a report on how Scotland's e-university is going from strength to strength.

Suddenly it was all bingo
A report on Stephanie Haywood, director of the Gambling Technology Centre that she set up at Hull University.

Student injured as seagull tries to steal sandwich
A mature student was injured by a desperate seagull in Scotland yesterday when it tried to swipe a sandwich from her mouth. Mrs Mackay, a 39-year-old mature student from Durris in Aberdeenshire, was walking in the centre of Aberdeen when the incident took place.

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