Today's news

April 1, 2005

Arts and humanities get own research council
Today, arts and humanities scholars get their own long-awaited research council, a sign of the growing economic respect the government has for the cultural and creative "industries" in the UK. With an annual budget of £75 million the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is still a minnow among the other six research councils that dispense funding to scientists and social scientists - the Medical Research Council, for example, gives out more than £400 million a year.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (1 April)

Exeter chemistry students offered places at Bath
Around 50 students studying chemistry at Exeter University are expected to move to Bath to continue their courses when their department closes. Bath University announced today that letters had been sent to the students' homes last week offering them places, and expects most or all of them to transfer in October. Other students will be going to Bristol, which is increasing the size of its chemistry department. Exeter's decision in November to close its popular chemistry department caused a national outcry and prompted an investigation by the Commons science committee.
The Guardian, The Scotsman

Our degrees 'are not Big Macs' says principal
A leading Scottish academic has launched an attack on plans to create a common higher education system across Europe. Professor Andrew Hamnett, the principal of Strathclyde University, warned yesterday that the initiative, known as the Bologna Process, could lead to the "McDonaldsisation" of higher education across the continent. His comments came as higher education officials from Europe gathered for a conference in Glasgow. Prof Hamnett said that, while he welcomed moves to ensure university qualifications had the same value across Europe, there were "tensions" among university officials about how far the plans should go.
The Scotsman

Welsh colleges not switched on to energy savings
Welsh universities and higher education colleges could save £500,000 each year on their energy and water costs, according to a critical report from the National Audit Office this week. Measures as simple as encouraging staff and students to switch off lights, radiators and computer monitors and closing windows in heated rooms could add up to create massive savings. Sir John Bourne, head of the NAO, which carried out the report for the Welsh Assembly, found universities varied in how efficient they were, but said that energy and water management had generally fallen below standards of good practice. There are no plans to extend the audit to the rest of the UK.
The Guardian, (1 April)

Ecuador pressured to save Galapagos wildlife
Ecuador is facing pressure to act against the fishermen who are threatening the ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. The Ecuadorean government is being lobbied by the fishing industry to legalise long-line fishing inside the marine reserve at the Galapagos, despite its potentially catastrophic impact on the rare marine life there.
The Independent

Indulged children 'turn to ecstasy'
Teenagers are more likely to experiment with ecstasy if they have grown up with lenient, indulgent parents, researchers said yesterday. A study found a strong correlation between parental permissiveness and ecstasy use in 18 to 25-year-olds. Lack of parental warmth during childhood was also a factor, psychologists said. But it was chiefly poor discipline and control that was associated with taking the drug.
Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Independent

Online test is designed to unmask the false smile
No one likes to admit they're faking it - but now a mass experiment threatens to unmask the secrets of a smile. Members of the public are being urged to take part in an online experiment to determine whether smiles are genuine or fake. Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, hopes the use this information to determine the nature of intuition and to find the most important part of the face for expressing real happiness. The experiment is being run as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival and he expects to have results in 10 days time.
The Independent, The Scotsman

'Bionic eye' may help reverse blindness
A "bionic eye" may one day help blind people see again, according to US researchers who have successfully tested the system in rats. The eye implant - a 3-millimetre-wide chip that would fit behind the retina - could be a dramatic step above currently available technology, says the team at Stanford University, California.
New Scientist, Nature

Linger longer grads
Not so long ago, it was accepted that people left home at 18. Some went out to work, others went to university. Either way, when your schooldays were over it was time to stand on your own two feet. But times have changed. Welcome to the Boomerang Generation: the twentysomethings who return to the family home after graduation and cannot - or will not - leave. Government figures indicate that in Britain 58 per cent of men between 20 and 24 and 42 per cent of women of the same age still live with their parents.
The Times

Letter
From Lord Sainsbury about meeting the innovation challenge.
The Financial Times

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