Today's news

March 7, 2005

'Gifted' tick box that could cost pupils a university place
Sixth-formers competing for places at leading universities may lose out if they have not signed up to a scheme for gifted children because of changes to the national admission form, head teachers said yesterday. A new question will ask applicants to tick a box if they have attended courses or events hosted by the National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth. Head teachers say they fear that the information will be used to look more favourably on those who "tick the box" which will discriminate against those who do not.
The Daily Telegraph

Admirers in Europe plan to create rival
European commentators frequently mention Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the best model of an institution that carries out world-class research and teaching in science and technology, while maintaining strong links with industry and spinning out lots of innovative small companies. The latest - and most powerful - endorsement came last month from José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, who called for the creation of a European Institute of Technology modelled on MIT, as part of the EU's new jobs and growth strategy.
The Financial Times

At £7,500 for the set, you'd think they'd get their facts right
The long-awaited publication of Oxford University Press's updated Dictionary of National Biography should have been another garland around the neck of one of the most respected and scholarly brands in the world. After 12 years of research, the 60-volume edition contains more than 50,000 biographies and costs £7,500. Yet the growing number of mistakes coming to light in the dictionary's pages threatens to make it an embarrassment, and some leading scholars even fear the new edition of the DNB is endangering the international reputation of the whole university city of Oxford.
The Guardian

Open University expands course for those with write stuff
Creative writing courses used to be viewed as a self-indulgent haven for cravat-wearing, pipe-smoking, wannabe playwrights. But the success of authors such as Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro has changed that perception. The Open University is to expand its creative writing course due to an "unprecedented" demand in applications. The OU’s original 12-week course, launched last year, grew to the surprise of tutors into the largest course of its kind with a matriculation of more than 3,000 students.
The Scotsman

Gap students 'learn little' about world
Gap year students hang around with other Britons and spend a lot of time on the phone to their parents rather than immersing themselves in the culture of foreign climes, a three-year survey has revealed. Rather than meeting the natives, the youngsters admit to gravitating towards other English-speaking travellers whilst abroad, for "easiness". Some of the annual 200,000 British gap-year travellers even plan their itineraries around television programmes back home and keep up-to-date with local football leagues.
The Scotsman, The Times Higher Education Supplement

Bones give clue to how we learnt to stand on our own two feet
Scientists have dug up the remains of a primitive apeman which they believe could be the first of our ancestors to have walked upright. The discovery is of critical importance in understanding human evolution. Researchers are still unsure why our ape-like ancestors abandoned their four-legged gait and their homes in the trees so that they could walk upright on the ground. “Once we started walking upright, tool-making and brain development followed on,” said palaeontologist Professor Leslie Aiello, of University College London.
The Guardian

Twin Mars rovers in instrument mix-up
Nasa's Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit are identical twins - so alike that they even fooled Nasa. Researchers have discovered that they sent the robots to Mars with an instrument meant for Opportunity inside Spirit and vice versa. While the bungle does not undermine the main scientific conclusions drawn from the data collected by the rovers, it is an embarrassing slip-up for a space agency that once lost a Mars spacecraft because engineers mixed up metric and imperial units.
New Scientist

From the weekend's papers:


  • Universities are experiencing a dramatic fall in the number of students from Asia enrolling on post-graduate courses, endangering the financial viability of some science departments. The Financial Times
  • The Government will next week launch a new drive for support of its controversial changes to student finances. Just days before colleges are due to unveil their top-up charges, the Department of Education is to launch a publicity campaign amid concerns that some students have been put off applying to university by confusion over tuition fees and loans. The Independent
  • Edinburgh University is in a £40 million bid to build state-of-the-art informatics centre. The university wants to build the new school on the site of the current Crichton Street car park beside Potterrow. The Scotsman


  • Claims by the pro-life movement that stem cells from adults have as much potential to repair a damaged body as those from human embryos have been disputed by the head of Europe's biggest stem cell research laboratory. The Daily Telegraph
  • First, second or third-class degrees could become a thing of the past as universities and employers demand better ways of judging performance. Mail on Sunday
  • An independent school education followed by a degree at an elite university can add more than £60,000 a year to your earnings. The Daily Telegraph

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