Today's news

April 26, 2005

Legal warnings over Israeli boycott
The head of the lecturers' union that last week launched an academic boycott of two Israeli universities has appealed to members not to begin the boycott until they have received advice on how to do so without breaking the law. In her first public comments since delegates at the union's annual conference in Eastbourne last Friday narrowly voted to back the boycott, Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: “The national executive will issue guidance to local associations on the implementation of the boycotts of the two Israeli universities in due course.”
The Guardian, The Scotsman

Oxford dons rebel over plan to hand powers to business leaders
Oxford dons launched a historic challenge yesterday to plans to hand over more powers to business as part of a shake-up of the rules and regulations that govern the university. In a big test of the leadership of the new vice-chancellor, John Hood, more than 100 senior staff questioned moves to restructure the way the university is run, which they fear could impinge on academic freedom. They are worried the proposals are being rushed through without proper consultation. Professor Hood, who was appointed last year, stoked controversy in February when he published proposals to streamline Oxford's decision-making system.
The Guardian, The Independent

Estelle Morris heads for academia
Estelle Morris, the arts minister and former education secretary - who is stepping down as an MP in next week's general election - is to return to education in her first paid employment after leaving politics. The former teacher will be named today as the pro vice-chancellor of the University of Sunderland, responsible for raising its national profile and developing partnerships with schools, colleges, communities and other key stakeholders.
The Guardian

Tuition fees help boost university income
The income of British universities rose by more than £1 billion last year as the Government pumped more money into the sector. The largest source of money remained grants from the higher education funding councils, but the fastest growing source was tuition fees, which rose by nearly 9 per cent as more students enrolled. Despite the increase in efforts to tap alumni and wealthy donors for funds, endowment and investment income remained static. The higher education sector had a total income of £16.9 billion in the 2003-04 academic year, the Higher Education Statistics Agency reported. This compares with £15.7 billion in 2002-03.
The Guardian

Oxford to train future Murdochs
Rupert Murdoch is used to talking tough. And earlier this month, before an audience of senior US newspaper editors, he did exactly that, warning that the media industry faces one of its greatest challenges so far: how to survive and thrive in the digital age. In the UK, such angst has prompted a group of media luminaries to help set up a multimillion-pound centre for the study of the business of media and communications at Mr Murdoch's alma mater: Oxford University. The new MBA centre, which fundraisers hope will attract £10 million to pay for professorships and staff, will be based at Oxford's Saïd Business School.
The Financial Times

Thrifty students forsake the booze and head to the bar for a smoothie
Booze used to be listed well before books and only just behind parties in the lexicon of undergraduate life. But it seems that modern students are sobering up, weighed down by debt and preferring an evening in with the parents to a night out with the lads. The student guild at Aston University in Birmingham has become so concerned by the decline in drinking that it is planning to switch to juice and noodle bars to boost revenues. The guild, which organises activities for the university’s 6,000 students, has forecast a deficit of nearly £40,000 this year, rising to £125,000 by the end of the decade.
The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, The Sun

A test too far for academics
“Oh it’s all so dull.” A complaint you might expect to hear from students about their lectures, but not from the academics themselves. With universities keen to have staff members gain teaching qualifications, many academics find themselves on the other side of the lectern. But for some younger lecturers, learning is a bit of a drag: “There’s no other country where you need another qualification to be an academic,” wails a lecturer at Bath University, while an academic at the University of the West of England says the teaching course is “a bit of a joke”. But the UWE dean of education, Ron Ritchie, says: “We have evidence that the programme is highly valued.”
The Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (April 22)

Embryos may be tested for breast cancer genes
Women with a family history of breast cancer who are undergoing IVF treatment may soon be offered the option of screening their embryo for the faulty genes that cause the disease. A University College London team, led by Ian Jacobs, is sending out questionnaires asking women with a known family history of breast cancer for feedback. If the test is backed it could be introduced within six months. However, the long-term effects of this kind of test, where cells are removed from eight cell embryos to test for serious genetic disorders, should be monitored now that hundreds of children have been born this way in Britain, an expert said yesterday.
The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Scotsman

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