Today's news

September 2, 2005

Thousands miss out on university places
Tens of thousands of students are to lose out on their dream of going to university, figures showed today. Top institutions such as University College London are full as the result of an unprecedented rush for degree course places. A dash to beat the introduction of top-up fees next year, coupled with record-breaking A-level passes, pushed up numbers starting this autumn by more than ,000. But 110,000 more have the grades to get into university - 10 per cent over last year's total - if they are prepared to take whatever is still available in the clearing system.
The Evening Standard

Government urged to prop up student societies
A decline in student union bar takings is hitting activities such as sports and student societies, the National Union of Students said today. The NUS is urging the Government, universities and further education colleges to put more money into student unions to boost the "informal education" that encourage active participation - and looks good on graduate CVs.
The Guardian

Rich-poor divide 'as wide as 60 years ago'
The rich-poor divide in Britain is as great as ever, 60 years after the founding of the welfare state, according to new research that will make embarrassing reading for the Government. The university study, which looked at social inequalities across the country, found that areas with the greatest number of young people with no qualifications also have the lowest numbers of teachers per head of the population. Areas with the highest number of qualified youngsters have four times the density of teachers. The research also recorded a geographical divide based on access to cars, with about a million poor urban households having none. An equal number of households in the wealthy areas of west London has three or more cars.
The Daily Telegraph

Dyslexia is all in the mind, says professor
An education expert has claimed that dyslexia "does not exist" because it has no valid scientific basis. Up to six million people in Britain are believed to suffer from the brain disorder that disrupts reading and writing. But Professor Julian Elliott claims, in today's Times Education Supplement , that there is widespread disagreement over what it is and says that the term is largely an "emotional construct". Professor Elliott, who teaches at Durham University, says poor readers wanted to be called dyslexic because of a "widespread, but wrong, perception that dyslexics are, generally, intellectually bright". But after 30 years in the field he had "little confidence" in his ability to diagnose it. 
The Daily Telegraph , The Evening Standard , The TES (September 2)

Expert summit to tackle brain drain
More than 100 scientists and researchers are to hold a summit at the Scottish Parliament on how to beat the brain drain. The event, organised by a parliamentary think-tank and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, is to consider the consequences in ten years of having, or not having, a vibrant research community. Scientists will debate the place of a small country like Scotland in the global market of knowledge industries and ponder the problem of top brains being lured overseas by foreign universities and multinational companies.
The Scotsman

British duo probes origin of mad-cow disease
Human remains in cattle feed could have caused the first case of mad cow disease, two UK researchers propose. The hypothesis seeks to answer lingering questions about the fatal infection, which has affected 180,000 cows in Britain alone since the mid-1980s, and has gone on to cause more than 100 deaths in humans. Alan Colchester of the University of Kent and his daughter Nancy Colchester, of the University of Edinburgh, point out that during the 1960s and 1970s Britain imported hundreds of thousands of tonnes of whole and crushed bones and animal carcasses. These were used in fertiliser and to feed livestock. Nearly 50 per cent of these imports came from Bangladesh, where peasants gathering animal materials may have also picked up human remains, the researchers say.
Nature , The Daily Telegraph , The Guardian

Man's evolution linked to climate change
Early man is likely to have evolved in response to climate changes that eradicated a lush, watery Eden of lakes and woods in the Rift Valley of East Africa, said scientists yesterday. Until now it has been thought that the East of Africa got drier gradually, eventually forcing man's early ancestors to move out and colonise elsewhere. The latest theory is that man's ancestors evolved in response to the stress of losing their watery Eden. Mark Maslin, a lecturer in geography from the University of London, said that investigations as far north as Ethiopia had discovered the sediments of lakes dating back to the time when supposedly the climate had been getting drier in Africa.
The Daily Telegraph

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