Today's news

August 30, 2005

Scramble for places as top universities close doors
A record number of universities are closing their doors to applicants after an unprecedented scramble for places by students desperate to avoid higher tuition fees. Admissions tutors at dozens of institutions say that they are full only days after the start of the clearing exercise to match students to available vacancies. Some universities reported that they were full by the end of the first day. Tens of thousands of candidates who are still searching for places because they failed to get the A-level grades for their chosen courses face disappointment as a growing number of universities pull out of clearing.
The Times

Australia offers to fund students who miss out in rush
Universities in Australia and New Zealand are to offer thousands of pounds of scholarships to British students who have failed to gain a place in clearing and wish to study abroad. Prompted by reports that up to 60,000 school-leavers may fail to gain a university place in Britain this year because of the rush to avoid £3,000 top-up fees, seven universities from Queensland to Canterbury have pledged financial assistance. Annual undergraduate fees usually range between £4,100 and £5,400. But with a lower cost of living, academics say that it is now academically and financially worthwhile for British students to study in the southern hemisphere.
The Times

Publish university science for free, urges web creator
A group of UK academics including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the worldwide web, has called on the Government and public bodies that fund academic research to ensure anybody can view publicly funded research for free on the system he helped develop. In an open letter to science minister Lord Sainsbury and Research Councils UK - which brings together Britain's eight public backers of research - Sir Tim and seven other academics have launched a stinging attack on moves by traditional scientific publishers to prevent the public dissemination of research.
The Guardian

Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists
Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny. A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published. Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.
The Guardian

David's toe points art historians to origins of Michelangelo's marble
Scientists have identified the precise origin of the marble block used for Michelangelo's David, and say the discovery will be useful for helping to preserve one of the world's greatest sculptures. Until now, art historians knew only that the large block came from the Carrara quarries in Tuscany, which still produce many types and qualities of marble. Analysts have now used three tiny samples to track down the marble's origin. Not only were they able to determine the exact spot of excavation - the Fantiscritti quarries in Miseglia - they also found that Michelangelo's marble is of mediocre quality, filled with microscopic holes, and likely to degrade faster than many other marbles.
The Guardian

Most scientific papers are probably wrong
Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50 per cent chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true. John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece, says that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings.
New Scientist

Experts debate effect of devolution
The effect of the establishment of the Scottish Parliament on the English is to be discussed at a conference of psychologists at Edinburgh University. Experts at Lancaster University have spent five years looking at English identity following the historic move. Their data offers an insight into if and how the English's relations with Scotland have changed as a result.
The Scotsman

Letter
Regarding the lack of students taking IT and languages could result in a skills shortage in UK economy.
The Financial Times

From the weekend's papers:

Saturday

  • Why go to university? We need plumbers, not more media graduates. The Times
  • Article exploring the alternatives to a standard degree, such as foundation degrees and learning through work schemes. The Guardian

Sunday

  • What women want from an MBA. The Independent
  • New research shows how a university education could make life more difficult. The Sunday Times

Monday

  • Article on how universities are receiving less government funding than in 1997. The Times
  • Coffee 'gives more antioxidants than fruit and veg'. The Daily Telegraph

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