Today's news

October 20, 2005

Warwick’s decision disrupts Singapore’s plans
A decision by Warwick University to abandon plans for a Singapore campus due to worries about academic freedom might set back efforts by the city-state to attract top western universities in its quest to become a “global schoolhouse”. Warwick said yesterday it would not proceed with plans to set up a full-scale university campus in Singapore after the faculty last week voted against it by a 2-1 margin on the grounds of academic freedom and financial cost. However, the university said it might propose an alternative plan later.
The Financial Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Oct 21)

More warnings over decline in science students
The decline in applications for science courses at British universities is a "huge worry" that could have a knock-on effect on the UK's future economic success, MPs were warned yesterday. The chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Sir Howard Newby, said that applications for degree courses in chemistry, physics, mathematics and engineering had fallen by as much as 30 per cent in recent years, with ten universities closing chemistry departments for lack of demand. He joked that it was only the appeal of TV scientists such as forensic pathologist Sam Ryan, played by Amanda Burton in the BBC1 drama Silent Witness , which appeared able to persuade youngsters to join science courses.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Oct 21)

Oxbridge 'advantage' for judges
The Lord Chancellor has been accused by an independent watchdog of being influenced in appointing judges by whether they had been to Oxbridge. In one particular competition for recorders, candidates who were “male Oxbridge-educated barristers fared disproportionately well”, according to reports from the Commission for Judicial Appointments. The commission said: “We also noticed that the Lord Chancellor’s involvement at the end of the process increased the proportion of Oxbridge-educated candidates who were appointed over and above those recommended by officials.”
The Times

South Korea opens stem cell research bank
A bank that will create and supply new lines of embryonic stem cells for scientists around the world opened in Seoul yesterday as part of a global partnership to help scientists in countries such as the United States get around government restrictions on cloning. The world stem cell hub, Led by cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk, will serve as the main centre for providing embryonic stem cells, which are seen as a potential source of replacement tissue for people with a variety of ailments. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun hailed the opening as a "proud" achievement.
The Guardian, Nature

Openness grows over animal research
Universities are becoming more open about their animal research programmes, a survey shows. Reassured by more robust support from the Government and police, institutions are abandoning a long-standing practice of collective silence in the face of animal rights extremism. In the survey they asked 45 universities that conduct animal research about their policies and whether they encouraged academics to speak publicly on the issue. More than half of the universities have a statement on animal research on their websites. Most statements were introduced in the past year and five in the past two months.
The Financial Times

The art of catching criminals
Scotland's first forensic art unit has been established at Dundee University in what could prove a major boost to criminal investigations by police forces throughout Scotland. The unit will make it possible for the faces of victims of crime to be reconstructed from a human skull on a computer screen, instead of the traditional method of using sculptural techniques, allowing key characteristics such as skin and hair colour to be changed at the touch of a mouse button.
The Scotsman

More perfume, fewer poisonous by-products
Perfumes, paints and cosmetics could be manufactured without producing so much toxic waste. Before petroleum hydrocarbons can be turned into useful household chemicals they have to be oxidised to make them reactive enough to receive the chemical groups responsible for their properties - such as colour and stickiness for paint. The reactions for achieving this often rely on heavy-metal oxidants such as manganese or chromium compounds, and these create toxic waste that usually ends up in landfill sites. Graham Hutchings and colleagues at Cardiff University have oxidised liquid cyclo-octene, an alkene used in perfume production, using a catalyst made from gold nanoparticles.
New Scientist, Nature

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