Today's news

November 25, 2004

Rescue for top-rated staff only
A government promise to protect nationally important but vulnerable academic subjects may extend only to the top research-intensive university departments, The Times Higher can reveal. The approach emerged this week after Exeter University announced that it would shut its chemistry, mining engineering, Italian and music departments, which have struggled financially since being given 4 ratings in the last research assessment exercise. Other 4-rated science subjects will also suffer staff losses and "disinvestment".
Times Higher

Leading article: Chemical breakdown
The news that Exeter University is to axe undergraduate chemistry has shocked the Royal Society of Chemistry and pointed up the crisis in a subject that is essential to the country's economic wellbeing. It is not only Exeter that has dropped chemistry. So has King's College and Queen Mary, both part of the University of London, as well as the University of Kent. The Royal Society is surprised that Exeter is taking such action when the university has seen a 21 per cent increase in numbers of applications this year and when its vice-chancellor, Steve Smith, was so gung-ho about the subject in his speech to the British Association meeting at his own university earlier this year. Exeter had a highly rated chemistry department with a good spread of staff across the age range.
The Independent (Education)

Witness the lack of jobs
All those sixth form girls who are hoping to become sexy pathologists like Amanda Burton in the BBC's drama series Silent Witness by studying forensic science at university should think again. That's the message of a report published last week, which says that the new courses will not lead to jobs in forensic science. "Our main concern is with the young people studying for these degrees," says Richard Smith of Semta, the skills council for science and engineering that produced the report. "They expect to get work in forensics but that is not going to happen." The police seem to agree. Some of the forensic science degrees are little more than a collection of basic scientific principles combined with the telling of some anecdotes, says Clive Wolfendale, deputy chief constable of North Wales Police and chair of the forensic science strategy group at Semta. "If a young person is excited by the prospect of a career in this field, I would advise them strongly not to be seduced by some of the poorer-quality degrees on offer." The explosion in forensic science courses is doing everyone a disservice, he thinks. It is wasting young people's time, it is wasting parents' money and is demeaning to the police. "This is a product based on a television perception of what forensic science is about," he says. "The reality is that it is very labour-intensive, routine, time-consuming, dirty and unpleasant work."
The Independent (Education)

Career enhancement for ethnic minorities at Southampton Institute
Southampton Institute has introduced a career enhancement scheme to improve the career prospects of minority ethnic students, who are nearly twice as likely to experience unemployment when compared with their white peers. The Institute's Minority Ethnic Recruitment, Information, Training and Support programme provides the student participants with the ability to develop the skills required to successfully obtain employment and to help them to gain confidence for entering the graduate labour market. Phil Gibson, head of student support at Southampton Institute, explains how the programme came about. "We started focusing on race and equality in 1997, when we discovered that minority ethnic graduates were more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. We wanted to do something about it, so we introduced a programme for the minority ethnic students that involved teaching career management skills."
The Independent (Education)

Business links set the agenda
It goes without saying that for a business school to provide value in its education it has to have close links with the corporate world. How else does it ensure that its teaching is up to date and relevant? A school connects with the business community in its teaching, for example, through the business experience and contacts of its faculty; the involvement of visiting speakers; the teaching of case studies; the development of corporate programmes; and the appointment of an advisory board from the business community. Despite these measures, schools have been criticised for a lack of relevance to modern business. Much of this criticism can be traced back to the founding principles of UK schools, which stressed their role as centres of academic excellence above that of providing industry-relevant training. As a result of recent criticism, many schools have revisited their relationship with the business community. Many MBA programmes now include training in the so-called soft skills such as leadership, ethics and interpersonal skills and place a greater emphasis on the teaching of international business issues and a focus on practical, rather than purely academic, skills.
The Times (Career)

All's well on the shop front
Familiarity breeds contempt. This, believes Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, is the reason the retail industry doesn't come high up the careers wish-list of most graduates. "It's a sector we think we all know about because we all shop. And if we worked as students, the chances are we worked in retail," he says. "But both these experiences give a jaundiced view of retail. You don't get to see all the functions that are involved behind the scenes, like buying, store management, logistics and HR. The big retailers, in particular, are sophisticated businesses with some of the widest range of jobs and impressive training schemes." British notions that working in shops is for the unskilled and poorly educated don't help, adds Terry Jones of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services. "At a recent careers fair in London, Sainsbury's was the least popular stand. Students walked straight past it, despite having a realistic chance of getting on its graduate scheme, which is excellent. I think the industry needs to do more to address its image problem."
The Independent (Graduate)

Companies pull on grab-a-graduate night
How can your company attract the best graduates in the face of fierce competition? You could, like some investment banks, offer the highest salary. Or you could do what Barclays Bank did last week at Warwick University - it treated a party of students to popcorn, fizzy drinks and a private viewing of a popular film release. While the audience waited expectantly, the high street bank had the perfect opportunity to show a short video, explaining what its business was about and why it was a natural career choice for those who have what it takes to lead a world-class business. As the graduate recruitment market heats up - led by an expansion in hiring activity among professional services firms - more and more companies are promoting their "employer brand" in the way that marketers promote branded goods and services. In the past few months, students at Oxford, Cambridge and other leading universities have ridden in rickshaws laid on by the accountants KPMG, watched street artists perform courtesy of the professional services firm Deloitte, and been intrigued by an array of marketing stunts pulled off by corporations such as Shell, Asda and PwC.
Financial Times

Exciting graduate jobs are out there if you are prepared to muscle in
Graduate recruitment is big business. In a recent survey of about 125 graduate employers, the total amount spent on graduate recruitment was more than £10m a year. At first glance this would suggest that recruiters spend heaps attracting applicants. However, as some of those questioned recruited well over 400 graduates, in reality the median spend is about £50,000 and it averaged out at around £2,000 per graduate recruited. This figure covered only the spend on graduate recruitment brochures, attendance at fairs and so on, and did not include any of the basic recruitment staff costs and overheads. It is small wonder, then, that graduate recruiters are getting more and more choosy about how they raise their profile among today's student force and, more importantly, what they expect from their investment.
The Independent (Graduate)

The urge to infidelity ... it's in her genes
One woman in five in Britain is likely to be unfaithful to her partner, and we now know what to blame: her genes. In one of the largest ever sexual surveys, involving 1,600 pairs of twins, scientists discovered that 40 per cent of female infidelity can be explained by heredity. In the study, published yesterday in the journal Twin Research , scientists from St Thomas' Hospital, London, logged responses from matching pairs of identical and non-identical twins. The women were aged between 18 and 80 and on average they had had between four and five sexual partners. One in four had been divorced and one in five admitted to infidelity.
The Guardian

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