Today's news

August 24, 2005

Dons resign over library cuts
Senior lecturers at a leading university have resigned from key posts in protest at what they claim is a downgrading of language studies. They say that the reputation of Japanese, Korean and Chinese studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies is being put at risk by a decision to sack four senior librarians who speak the languages and help to tend the university's collection of books and documents. Last year the University of Durham closed its department of East Asian studies and there are fears that the languages are being downgraded at other universities, despite their importance to international trade and relations.
The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian

Anger over 'victory' for animal rights campaign
The government and some of the country's leading scientists yesterday reacted with anger and frustration to the decision to end the breeding of animals at a farm that has been relentlessly targeted by animal rights protesters, warning that there could be severe consequences for clinical research in the UK. The decision by the owners of Darley Oaks farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire, follows a six-year campaign, one of several by animal rights activists that has caused growing concern at Westminster and prompted the Home Office to legislate this year to control the protests.
The Guardian

500 leading scientists back animal research
Fifteen years after first pledging their support for animal testing, more than 500 of the UK's leading scientists today reaffirmed their position saying that humane experimentation continues to play a crucial role in medical research. The Research Defence Society, a scientific campaign group, has obtained signatures from three Nobel laureates, 190 Fellows of the Royal Society and the Medical Royal Colleges and more than 250 academic professors. The backing from the scientific community comes at a sensitive time in the ongoing struggle between research organisations and extremist animal rights protestors.
The Times, The Independent, The Guardian

Highlands and Islands university on course to meet 2007 target
Moves to have a fully-fledged University of the Highlands and Islands by 2007 have taken a significant step forward. The body behind the project, the UHI Millennium Institute, has applied to the Privy Council for the power to award its own degrees. A team of assessors will now visit UHI for a year to examine how it manages its courses. UHI, an academic partnership of 13 colleges and research institutions, has been offering degree courses since 1999, although most degrees are awarded through the Open University Validation Service.
The Scotsman

Group criticised for 'ridiculing' graduates
A group representing businesses came under attack today after it labelled its own members' graduate employees "mediocre" and ill-prepared for the world of work. The Forum of Private Business today published a survey of 4,000 of its members that criticised graduates - and their university educations - for lacking basic literacy, numeracy, communication and letter-writing skills. The head of the Trades Union Congress condemned the FPB for "ridiculing" students and suggested that its survey would simply serve to make its own members look bad.
The Guardian

Parlez-vous Cymraeg?
Swansea University is offering language degree students the chance to study German, French or Spanish - in Welsh. With language courses around the UK struggling to recruit students as the numbers taking French and German at A-level plummet, Swansea has become the only university in Wales to offer this option. A team of dedicated lecturers will be on hand to assist students with their work, including the opportunity to analyse foreign-language literature in a Welsh-language tutorial. Essays and examination papers can also be submitted in Welsh.
The Guardian

US university protests at partying accolade
The academic accolade that nobody wants goes this year to the University of Wisconsin at Madison: Top Party School 2005. An award from the Princeton Review - a test crammer service not connected with Princeton University - was particularly embarrassing for the university as it had just issued a press release proclaiming: "UW-Madison shows progress on student drinking" - progress in curbing drinking, that is, in a state that claims to be the beer capital of the world. Like previous winners of the Princeton Review league table, based on a student questionnaire - the University of Colorado at Boulder, Indiana University at Bloomington and the State University of New York at Albany - Wisconsin has protested strongly at its title.
The Guardian

Spirit finishes mountain marathon
After a long uphill hike, there's no better reward than the view from the summit. So it is understandable that the operators behind the Mars rover Spirit had their robot pause to survey the terrain after it reached the top of Husband Hill, even if the area does look remarkably similar to the area from which the rover just came. "It's a beautiful view," says Ray Arvidson, a geologist from Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, and second-in-command of the rover science team.
Nature

Placebo effect is not all in the mind
The belief that a medicine will relieve pain can prompt the brain to release natural painkilling chemicals, according to research that may explain the placebo effect. Scientists in the United States have shown that the brain makes a distinct chemical response when patients are given a treatment they expect to work, shedding light on how therapies that have no active ingredients can nonetheless have medical benefits.
The Times, New Scientist

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