Today's news

August 16, 2005

Huge majority backs A-level reform
The vast majority of the public wants the government to introduce further, radical reforms to A-levels, even though it is broadly split on whether the "gold standard" exam has become easier over time. Nine out of 10 respondents to a Guardian /ICM poll published today back changes which include increasing the number of subjects studied in the sixth form to give teenagers more breadth and to avoid specialising too early — as proposed in the Tomlinson report last year which was largely rejected by the government.
The Guardian

Turned down by Oxbridge, 10,000 straight-A students
Record numbers of straight-A students have been rejected by Oxbridge this year. Oxford and Cambridge admissions tutors estimate that more that 10,000 sixth-formers with at least three grade As did not receive offers from them.
Daily Mail

Scrap A levels, says minister who tried to reform exam
Estelle Morris, one of the architects of the Government’s A-level reforms, said yesterday that the examination should be abolished in favour of a diploma. Ms Morris, the former education secretary, said that both GCSE and A levels were "ripe for modernisation".
The Times

New exam results system aims for greater transparency
A new online database will allow teachers to gain instant access to the A-level marks for every individual question answered by their pupils when results are released on Thursday. The revolutionary exam system, designed in the wake of the 2002 exams crisis, allows teachers to log on to a database containing the results from Edexcel exams taken at 5,000 schools and colleges by over 933,000 students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Guardian

Murdoch in talks to buy Cambridge graduate's Net search engine Blinkx
News Corporation, the media giant controlled by Rupert Murdoch, is understood to be seeking to further its ambitions in the internet arena by holding talks to buy an online search engine for video and television clips. News Corporation's talks with Blinkx, a company that was set up by a Cambridge University graduate and is based in San Francisco, are believed to be at an early stage.
The Independent

Work starts on £15m health science centre to employ 200
Work started yesterday to build a £15 million world-class centre for health science - the first of its kind in the UK - which is expected to create 200 high-quality jobs. Allan Wilson, Scotland's deputy enterprise minister, cut the first turf on the site in Inverness which will become a state-of-the-art facility for healthcare and biotechnology research, education, training and business development next to the city's Raigmore Hospital.
The Scotsman

When is satisfaction academic?
Academics can’t get no satisfaction — unless they are allowed to use their initiative. The prospects for promotion, low levels of pay and long hours may make for an unsatisfying work life but, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, having the opportunity to use some initiative makes up for it. Its report, Recruitment and Retention of Academic Staff in Higher Education, finds academic pay in the UK is low — relative to other highly qualified jobs — but compares well with other countries.
The Times , The Times Higher Education Supplement (12 August 2005)

University professor pins hope on drug to fight MRSA
A British professor believes he has found a new antibiotic that could combat the MRSA superbug and is trying to raise £5m to fund its development. The battle against bacteria once looked as if it had been won, but the recent emergence of new bugs that cannot be treated with conventional antibiotics has rekindled interest in the area. Professor Colin Smith, of the University of Surrey, has found potential new drugs that kill such "superbugs" in a petri dish, and wants to raise cash from venture capitalists to see if they will work in humans.
The Guardian

Avid sunbathers may be addicted to ultra-violet light
People, mostly women, who ignore advice about skin cancer and seek an ever deeper tan may be addicted to ultra-violet light, scientists say today. Sun tan addiction may explain why sunbathers stay in the sun or regularly use sunbeds even though they understand that they are putting themselves at risk. Researchers from the University of Texas interviewed 145 beach-goers. They adapted a standard psychological method to test for levels of addiction and found that 26 per cent of the group could be classed as "ultra-violet light tanning dependent".
Daily Telegraph , The Independent , Daily Mail , The Scotsman , The Times

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