Today's news

May 18, 2005

Howells wants end to Israeli boycott dispute
The government made its debut in the row over the academic boycott of two Israeli universities today when the middle east minister, Kim Howells, issued a plea for a "peaceful" resolution to the row. The Association of University Teachers' decision to start the boycott, made at its conference last month, has caused an international disagreement between academic, Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian groups. The union has been told its members may face prosecution for breaking race relation laws should they carry out the boycott and one of the universities is threatening legal action.
The Guardian

Oxford dons vote down appraisal plan
Oxford University was forced to back down on controversial proposals to set up a compulsory appraisal system for academics after dons yesterday voted down the idea. At a meeting of Congregation, the university's parliament, a motion condemning the plan as inimical to academic freedom was passed by 351 votes to 153. A compromise amendment tabled by the university executive was also rejected.
The Financial Times, The Guardian

City scientists get share of £11m life science cash
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have been awarded part of an £11 million grant for research into the building blocks of human existence. The grant, from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is for a joint study with universities in Glasgow and Dundee. It will pay for collaborative research into proteomics, the science often described as the next step after the sequencing of the human genome.
The Scotsman

Harvard president atones for 'sexist' comments with $50m equality pledge
The president of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, has announced plans to spend $50 million (£ million) to increase the number of women and people from minority groups at his faculty. Five months ago he was attacked for suggesting men are more biologically inclined to excel in sciences than women. The spending was recommended by task forces set up by Mr Summers in the wake of the winter furore. A new senior provost will be appointed at the Ivy League university to monitor and encourage diversity in its teaching ranks.
The Independent, The Guardian

London Met staff on strike
Lecturers at London Metropolitan University, one of the largest in the UK, are holding a week-long strike to protest against new contracts which they claim compromise academic freedom and threaten the jobs of almost 400 staff. Last night a spokesman for the university accused the union of being "completely out of control."
The Guardian

Students line up to rate their universities
Six out of ten final-year students have taken part in the biggest ever survey of student opinion, disclosing in detail how they rate their academic experience at university. The survey, which was ordered by the government when top-up fees were legislated for, is designed to give applicants to university in 2006 an in-depth description of what they are going into, as described by their peers.
The Guardian

Travel writer honoured by university
Author Bill Bryson is to receive an honorary degree from Scotland’s oldest university, it emerged today. The award-winning travel writer will be awarded a Doctor of Science at St Andrews University next month.
The Scotsman

Letter
From an executive head-hunter who states that applicants to university should be given feedback as to why they were not offered a place.
The Daily Express

Letter
Commenting that business needs rigorous and relevant research to be done by universities.
The Financial Times

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