Today's news

October 14, 2005

Cambridge faces the end of one-to-one tutorials
Cambridge may be forced to abandon its tradition of one-to-one tuition unless it can raise sufficient additional endowment funds to meet the cost, according to the university watchdog. The assessment by the Board of Scrutiny, which also indicated that the university’s renowned sporting traditions could be at risk, comes weeks after the start of a campaign by the 31 individual colleges to raise £1 billion by 2012 from alumni. In three years’ time, Oxford and Cambridge will lose the extra college fees that they now receive from the Government and be funded along the lines of other universities. Both universities run deficits of several million pounds and have made clear that the introduction next year of £3,000 tuition fees will not bridge the gap.
The Times

Warwick lecturers vote against Singapore campus
Senior lecturers at Warwick University in the UK have voted against setting up a branch campus in Singapore due to worries about limits on academic freedom, dealing a possible setback to the city-state's ambitions to become a regional hub for higher education. Singapore requires international educational institutions operating in the city-state to agree not to conduct activities seen as interference in domestic affairs.
The Financial Times

University to review policy on dissent
Lancaster University is to review its policy on peaceful protests following disquiet among academic staff and students about the conviction of six protesters who disrupted a corporate event. The university senate (the ruling body on academic matters) yesterday decided to set up two inquiries into Lancaster's policies on dealing with dissent and whether its freedom of speech code needed clarification. A third inquiry will look at the university's links with industry and commercialisation of research.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Sept 2)

Feverish scribblings of a genius
A librarian at an evangelical seminary near Philadelphia has made one of the most important musicological finds in memory - because she decided to clean out a dirty cabinet in the building’s basement. Heather Carbo has unearthed Beethoven’s manuscript score for a piano version of his Grosse Fuge, a work with almost mythical status in the music world. It had been hidden away and forgotten on a bottom shelf at the Palmer Theological Seminary, in the suburbs of the city. Sensing the importance of the manuscript, the seminary contacted Jeffrey Kallberg at the University of Pennsylvania, who identified it.
The Times, The Guardian, The Independent

Private companies own human gene patents
Nearly a fifth of all human genes have been patented - the majority by private biotechnology companies, according to a survey of patent records published today. The extent to which companies claim ownership of human genes has raised alarm among researchers and led to warnings that by asserting commercial rights over crucial genes, companies risk stifling research into diseases such as breast cancer, diabetes and obesity. Legal cases triggered by disputes over who owns specific genes and how access to working on them is restricted are also likely in future, the scientists warn.
The Guardian, The Financial Times

Arthritis drug lowers damage from stroke
Medical researchers are excited about the potential of a new treatment for stroke which has performed well in its first clinical trials. The treatment is based on a drug currently prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis but which research has now shown protects brain cells from injury and death. According to Professor Nancy Rothwell of the Manchester University group which carried out the research: "In the laboratory we were able to reduce damage to the [brain] cells by as much as half. If we could cut damage in patients by even a third it would be a very significant step forward in treating stroke."
The Financial Times

On the right tack for coastal wind jets
It wasn't cheating but a hitherto poorly understood weather phenomenon that may have contributed to the success of the British sailing team in the 2004 Olympic Games. Scientists at University College, London, have managed to uncover the physics behind coastal wind jets, rivers of fast-flowing air a few kilometres wide that form close to coasts and can gust up to 40 per cent faster than normal winds for the area. They are well known to yachting experts, who use them to gain advantage in races.
The Financial Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Sept 14)

Does it work? Seaweed
Seaweed may not be too appetising when it is dried out and ponging on the beach, but bladderwrack, kelp, and other ocean algae could become a key part of a healthier British diet. Scientists at Newcastle University believe that seaweed extract, known as alginate, is the ideal way to add fibre to junk food such as burgers, pies and cakes. The natural gelling agent, which helps to bind water molecules, is already used to thicken up the tops of premium lagers and pet food chunks. Professor Jeff Pearson, who led the research team, explains: "We're just not eating enough fibre, yet we need this to keep us healthy. Adding the seaweed extract could quadruple the amount of fibre in white bread."
The Daily Telegraph

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