Today's news

March 10, 2005

LSE has quotas for state students
A leading university is operating a secret quota system favouring state educated pupils at the expense of better qualified applicants from the independent sector, it was disclosed last night. The scheme "top slices" places that will be available only to candidates who are approved by the London School of Economics as being from poorly performing state schools. It is the first firm evidence to support the fears of independent school head teachers that their pupils are facing discrimination as universities strive to meet the Government's targets for the recruitment of more students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Times Higher Education Supplement ,The Daily Telegraph

Entry to degree course gets even tougher

Youngsters who have applied to university this year will find it harder than ever to secure a place, the head of the Government's higher education funding body warned yesterday. The trend of improving A-level results coupled with demographic changes that have led to a rise in the number of teenagers and a record 9 per cent surge in the number of applications have made the process even more competitive, said Sir Howard Newby, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
The Guardian, The Independent, The Times

University funding deal 'not enough to pay staff'
A funding settlement worth more than £6 billion for 2005-06 will not be enough for universities to pay staff adequately, the umbrella body for higher education warned. Universities UK said yesterday that a 5.6 per cent increase in funding for teaching did not take into account pre-existing costs and would not be able to fund salary settlements in line with inflation. "Once earmarked funding for rewarding and developing staff, supporting additional student numbers and widening participation has been stripped away, the average increase in core funding is just 1 per cent," the organisation said.
The Financial Times

Minister says millions wasted on promoting science
The Government is wasting millions of pounds on futile attempts to persuade more students to study science, mathematics and other "strategic" subjects at university, the higher education minister, Kim Howells, told MPs today. Mr Howells told the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee that he suspected "many millions of pounds" were being spent on programmes to direct students into certain areas with very little evidence that they were effective.
The Guardian

Will we make the most of stem cell research?
The Prime Minister has said that Britain should grasp the huge opportunities for medicine presented by stem cell science but there were few details of how he plans to do this when the science budget was allocated earlier this week, save that £1 billion will be invested in biotechnology over the next three years. While ministers spout more hot air than financial substance, a range of advances that will speed the development of human embryonic stem cell treatments have been announced by British scientists at an international conference in Edinburgh. The Independent

You, too, could be a Bill Gates
Too many students are rejecting the idea of self-employment as a viable career option, preferring instead the perceived security of a nine-to-five job. That, at least, is the thinking of Chancellor Gordon Brown, who is keen to see British graduates emulate their entrepreneurial North American counterparts. About 30 per cent of the growth in the US economy is down to businesses started by graduates within five years of leaving university - although this number is admittedly skewed by the likes of Bill Gates' Microsoft empire - but in the UK that number is only 8 per cent.
The Independent

We won't have to pay a thing!
When the top-up fees Bill was wending its way through Parliament, the Government was asked how it would collect the £9,000 owed by each European Union student under the new regime. The question is important because there are so many EU students at universities in Britain. They flock to sign up for British degrees because our higher education system is so good compared with those on the Continent. If the Government is unable to collect the new top-up fee repayments when they graduate, we shall be losing a lot of money - as much as £150 million a year, says Bahram Bekhradnia, the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute.
The Independent

48 Reading University students hit by mumps
A mumps outbreak has struck down almost 50 university students. In total, 48 undergraduates at Reading University are said to have picked up the virus, which can lead to infertility in men. The epidemic started in January, since when student union officials have been offering help to all of its 14,000 students. Welfare vice-president Sarah Roberts said 18 to 25-year-olds were the most likely to be affected, as they were too old to have been vaccinated by the MMR jab.
The Evening Standard

Oxford degree for Italian President
President of Italy Carlo Ciampi is to receive an honorary degree from Oxford University, it was announced today. Mr Ciampi will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Civil Law by Diploma in a special ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre on March 17. Mr Ciampi, Italy’s head of state for the past six years, is being given the honour in recognition of the university’s links with Italy as well as his contribution to political and economic affairs.
The Scotsman

What's up, postdoc?
An international survey of postdocs puts the UK at only number ten in the world. And only two British universities made it to the list of top institutions.
The Independent

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