Today's news

September 29, 2005

Three-point scale urged to replace degree grades
The system of awarding students firsts, upper and lower seconds and thirds should be scrapped, a review commissioned by Universities UK, the body that represents the vice-chancellors, said yesterday. It said that degree classification was too blunt a tool to capture the "qualities and capabilities of the modern student" and employers, who often used it to sift applicants, attached undue weight to it. The result was that for many students attaining "the essential upper second" became the whole focus of their university career, which distracted from the "wider and more enduring benefits of higher education".
The Daily Telegraph, The Times Higher Education Supplement (sept 30)

Oxford University reforms diluted
The vice-chancellor of Oxford University has watered down controversial proposals to create a powerful body of outside businesspeople to oversee its finances and strategy. The board of trustees would have been made up of 13 people from outside the institution and was part of plans published earlier this year by John Hood, the new vice-chancellor, which prompted a stand-off with some dons. The plans were dropped after criticism from university members, who also forced Mr Hood to drop planned annual performance assessments of dons.
The Financial Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (sept 30)

University to study peace process
Academics are to investigate the role of religion in Northern Ireland's peace process in a £124,000 project. Researchers at Aberdeen University will examine ways in which conflict is expressed through religion and whether the church can help reconcile the differences experienced in the country. John Brewer, head of the university's sociology department, said the study would include interviews with church and para-church organisations, politicians and parliamentary groups.
The Scotsman

Glamorgan launches ET degree
Glamorgan University has launched a degree course on the hunt for alien life, offering students the opportunity to study an undergraduate course in astrobiology - the search for life beyond Earth. New recruits signed up to the course, held at Glamorgan University in South Wales, this week. The topic is a "major driving force" behind current space programmes, such as the recent excitement over the possibility of finding organic life on Saturn's moon Titan, the university said.
The Guardian

Sea ice melts to record low because of global warming
Arctic sea ice has melted to a record low this month, prompting fears that the entire polar ice cap may disappear within decades. Satellite images of the northern hemisphere's floating sea ice show that the area of ocean covered by the ice during this month was the lowest ever observed by scientists. It is the fourth consecutive summer that the area covered by the sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk below even the long-term decline, which began at least as far back as the late 1970s.
The Independent

Scientists find formula for perfect sandcastle
Scientists have used complex experiments and maths to create the perfect recipe for making a sandcastle. Mixing eight parts sand to one part water provides the ideal building material, according to American researchers. The study, reported in the journal Nature Physics and carried out by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, set about investigating how sand is stabilised by water. They performed a set of measurements using transparent rotating drums partially filled with wet sand.
The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman

Regarding the London School Economics having no right to special treatment.
The Financial Times

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