Today's news

September 28, 2005

More funding and more places, demand universities
New universities urged the government to increase its 50 per cent target for participation in higher education at this week's Labour party conference. Michael Driscoll, the vice-chancellor of Middlesex University and chair of the Campaigning for Mainstream Universities, called for more resources to be allocated to institutions that were widening access and for better funding for part-time students. The target of 50 per cent of people under 30, set by Tony Blair, looks unlikely to be met by 2010 as planned because not enough extra places have been funded, according to a recent report from the Higher Education Policy Institute.
The Guardian

College granted degree-awarding powers
University College London yesterday announced it had been granted degree-awarding powers, raising new questions about the future of the University of London. UCL is the largest constituent college of the University of London, which traditionally awards degrees on behalf of its members' colleges, and it is the latest in a line of London colleges to seek its own powers amid a debate about the future of the federal university. The London School of Economics and King's College London are already seeking degree-awarding powers, and Imperial, which already has the rights, has been debating using them.
The Guardian, The Evening Standard

Animal rights activists in new wave of attacks
Animal rights activists have launched a fresh wave of attacks, targeting a senior pharmaceutical executive and an Oxford college. The Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility yesterday for a device left outside the home of Paul Blackburn, the corporate controller of Britain's biggest pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline. A device containing fuel had been left on Mr Blackburn's porch, a company spokesman said. It is understood that Mr Blackburn was abroad at the time, but his wife and daughter were at the house. The device caused only minor damage.
The Daily Telegraph

Knock-out blow for Oxbridge boxers
After more than a century of holding the annual varsity boxing match with rivals Oxford, Cambridge has been left without a venue for the event because of new licensing laws. From now on, the Cambridge venue for a contest that alternates each year between the cities will have to be in London. Traditionally, Cambridge has held the match in the Guildhall in the centre of the city. But managers there have decided that the cost of complying with the 2003 Licensing Act, which will cover both drinking and public entertainment when it comes into force in November, is too high.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times

Tuition fees drove mother to suicide
A mother who killed herself because she feared she could not pay her daughter's university tuition fees is being held up in China as the latest victim of the financial and mental costs of its obsessive drive for education. The case of Li Fenxiang has led to agonised coverage on the internet and in some newspapers about the pressure on students and their families. In the run-up to summer exams, three students at Beijing University, known as the Oxford of China, threw themselves from the top of campus buildings.
The Daily Telegraph

Engineers seek to deflect asteroids on collision course with Earth
British scientists are set to go chasing after asteroids on a collision course with Earth. In a three-year £300,000 study funded by the government-backed Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, engineers will use computer simulations to work out the feasibility of changing the direction of asteroids. "It's clear from geological records that the Earth has been impacted in the past by large objects," said Colin McInnes of Strathclyde University. Although none of the space objects currently tracked by Nasa is heading for Earth, Professor McInnes added that preparing for a potential catastrophe was a valid concern. "You have to place it in context - it's a small risk but with a high consequence."
The Guardian, New Scientist

AI systems may blow weathermen away
Weather forecasters could find themselves pushed out of a job by an artificial intelligence system designed to write clearer, less ambiguous reports. Computer scientists at Aberdeen University were asked to generate an "artificial weatherperson" by operators of offshore oil rigs who wanted more clarity in their forecasts. The vocabulary used by different forecasters can be vague and highly variable, says Ehud Reiter, who led the Aberdeen team. While this is simply an irritation to most of us, it can be a big headache for the offshore oil industry, where unexpected bad weather can damage equipment and threaten safety.
New Scientist

From Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell on issues of education standards and widening higher education participation.
The Times

Regarding the state of higher education.
The Independent

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