Today's news

May 3, 2005

Two-thirds of first-time voters care about key issues, but still will not vote
Declining turnout among young voters has driven party officials to invest heavily in targeting seats with high student populations. Opposition parties have given their youth organisations "fighting funds" amounting to thousands of pounds to help target key constituencies. But according to Mark Weinstein, a researcher from Nottingham Trent University who has analysed young people's political involvement for a number of years, such targeting at election time fails to address the wider malaise which lies behind declining turnouts. He argues that parties express concern about disengagement but fail to take meaningful action.
The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times, The Scotsman, The Evening Standard

Natfhe agrees next step in union merger
Leaders of the lecturers' union Natfhe have agreed the next step towards a merger with the Association of University Teachers, which will create a single union for higher and further education. Natfhe's national executive voted overwhelmingly last Friday to recommend to the union's forthcoming conference that the 68,000 members should be balloted on the proposed merger. The motion will now be put to the annual conference, which will be held in Eastbourne starting May 28.
The Guardian

The myth of meritocracy
Students may have benefited from the drive for diversity, but university staff still face sexism, racism and homophobia on campus. It is one of many comments from the higher education shopfloor that indicate things are not as rosy as senior management thinks they are when it comes to discrimination on grounds of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. A two-year study by 17 researchers was commissioned by the funding councils of England, Wales and Scotland. It has produced a mixed picture and uncovered a lot of anger among staff. It is unfortunate that it has been released on the eve of the election, guaranteeing the minimum of publicity.
The Guardian

The high cost of consultation
Universities have been hoping to make themselves seem absolutely fabulous by spending a mint on public relations. Under the Freedom of Information Act, documents have been released showing that some institutions are rather partial to calling in the consultants. Leeds University is one of the big spenders, having paid out more than £150,000 on consultancy projects since 2003. Bristol, Cardiff and Westminster Universities, meanwhile, prefer to sort things out for themselves: they have shunned consultants completely in the past two years.
The Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (April 29)

Last of the Oxford bridge jumpers leaves hospital
The last of the students injured after jumping from a bridge while taking part in May Day revelries at Oxford University are expected to leave hospital today. Although there had been fears of spinal injuries following the celebrations at Magdalen Bridge in Oxford, students instead suffered "non-critical" injuries, such as broken legs, said a hospital spokesman.
The Guardian

Britain's Skylark makes last flight
Britain's 50-year-old space programme came to an end yesterday with the launch of the last Skylark rocket. The 13-metre unmanned rocket - a legacy of UK efforts to build rockets capable of carrying weapons and launching satellites - blasted off from the Esrange launchpad in Sweden carrying scientific experiments. It flew for about 16 minutes and reached a height of 158 miles.
The Guardian

Bead of hope for sensitive teeth
Scientists have found a cure for sensitive teeth. Sufferers could soon be fitted with a tiny glass bead infused with fluoride, which proved 100 per cent successful at stopping pain in a small trial group at Leeds University. Stuck to an upper tooth, the bead slowly releases low levels of fluoride to form a protective cap over exposed nerves. "The volunteers were so happy with the beads that when the trial ended they refused to give them back," said Gayatri Kotru, a research assistant at the Leeds Dental Institute, where the bead was developed.
The Guardian

Asking who is to blame for plagiarism.
The Guardian

From the weekend's papers:


  • Forget the polls, strategy and policy: the one guarantee of reaching No 10 is an Oxford education.
    The Guardian
  • More than half of overseas students in the UK are being denied overdrafts. The Guardian
  • Letters regarding student protests. The Guardian


  • An escort agency has been set up by a group of Oxford University undergraduates hoping to pay their tuition fees by dating wealthy strangers. The Sunday Times
  • University students could get two votes due to a loophole. The Mail on Sunday
  • Alcohol, cigarettes and takeaway food remain the staple diet of many undergraduates, despite mounting debts of thousands of pounds. The Mail on Sunday


  • One hundred teenagers from the poorest boroughs in England will go on sponsored visits to Oxford University in an attempt to raise their aspirations. The Times
  • The NUS is stepping up its campaign to persuade undergraduates to vote in key marginal seats where their views could determine the outcome. The Financial Times
  • Oxford University students suffered serious injuries after defying warnings to jump off a 25ft bridge into 3-feet of water. The Guardian

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