Today's news

October 31, 2005

Modernisation conflict at Oxford
Plans to end almost 900 years of self-government at Oxford University have won support from a leading college head. Lord Butler of Brockwell, the Master of University College, has said that he is likely to back proposals by John Hood, the Vice-Chancellor, for a board of directors with a majority of members who come from outside Oxford. The plan will be discussed at a meeting of congregation, Oxford’s “parliament”, tomorrow. Dr Hood, who is the first vice-chancellor to be appointed from outside the university, is facing strong opposition from dons to his reforms, which he argues are necessary to modernise decision-making and maintain Oxford’s world-class status.
The Times

Lecturers to vote on union merger
Lecturers are today being asked to vote on the proposed merger of the two major higher and further education unions. Members of the Association of University Teachers, which represents academics in the older universities, and lecturers belonging to Natfhe, which represents those in post-1992 institutions and colleges, are being asked by their leaders to approve the move to form a single union next year.
The Guardian

Academics dismiss PM's plan for schools
The Government's own research has cast doubt on Tony Blair's plans to raise schools' standards by putting more pupils in sets. A study showed little benefit in grouping by ability and warned that less able children were more likely to fall behind in schools that used sets. The research, carried out by academics at the universities of Cambridge, Brighton, Sussex, and London's Institute of Education, was based on analysis of existing and forthcoming studies on using sets.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times

World-class computer centre destroyed by fire
A fire destroyed research and equipment worth more than £25 million at one of the world's leading computer and electronics centres at Southampton University's Highfield campus yesterday. The blaze gutted laboratories used both by the university school of computer science and a government-sponsored optoelectronics centre regarded as among the world's best; its research has led to many breakthroughs, including fibre-optic cables. No-one was hurt but Harvey Rutt, deputy director, said staff and students were "very shocked and upset".
The Guardian

Bill Gates gives $258m to world battle against malaria
Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates last night gave $258 million (£145million) to the fight against malaria, branding the rich world's efforts in tackling the disease "a disgrace". The grant is equivalent to more than three-quarters of global spending on research into the disease last year, according to a report published simultaneously by the Malaria Research and Development Alliance. Malaria causes an estimated 500 million bouts of illness a year, kills an African child every 30 seconds, and costs an estimated $12 billion a year in lost income.
The Guardian, Nature, The Times

Eating oily fish could stop Alzheimer's
Scientists are to launch an investigation into whether eating oily fish can prevent people developing Alzheimer's disease and slow its progress in sufferers. The £300,000 research programme will be led by Professor John Harwood of Cardiff University, and funded by the Alzheimer's Research Trust. The new study will try to find the biological reason for the apparently beneficial effects of oily fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel.
The Daily Mail

Genes of foetus can improve mother's health
The health of pregnant women can be influenced by the genes of their unborn babies, say Belgian scientists. A study, published in the journal Moelcular Biology, and led by Olivier Descamps of Jolimont medical research centre, found that high cholesterol levels in pregnancy were partly determined by the foetus' genes, with implications for women usually advised not to have children due to genetic defects. A journal spokesman said: "Because their foetuses can compensate for their defects, these women may actually be able to bear children without complications."
The Guardian

Students serve Ramsay a slice of humble pie
Outspoken TV chef Gordon Ramsay has been rejected as the rector of St Andrews University in favour of retired environmentalist Simon Pepper. Students at the ancient university have the chance to elect a rector every three years to champion their cause across the university. Mr Ramsay, who caused an outcry recently by saying women could not cook, took 517 votes compared to Mr Pepper's winning 850 in Friday night's ballot.
The Guardian

Soas continues to build on its strengths.
The Financial Times

From the weekend's papers:


Ruth Kelly says that the Government will not fund less popular university courses despite the closure of a number of departments. The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph

Scientists find genetic key to cause of dyslexia. The Times


Lecturers have revealed that they give pass marks for even terrible work. The Sunday Times

Students who work while at university suffer academically. The Mail On Sunday

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