Today's news

July 25, 2006

Lecturers loath to step up
Good vice-chancellors are an increasingly rare breed, it seems, and universities are struggling to fill top posts. In recent months a number of university heads have stepped down, putting the pressure on recruitment firms to find good candidates to fill the vacancies. According to a report in The Times Higher Education Supplement (July 21), senior academic staff are wary of tackling the new changes coming in at universities. “Chairs of council are starting to talk to vice-chancellors about whether it might be a good idea to go early, before fees really kick in, rather than handing over the challenge halfway through,” a higher education specialist from one recruitment firm said.
The Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (July 21)

Hawking attacks EU stem cell 'fudge'
Renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking condemned as a "fudge" the decision by the European Union over the future funding of stem cell research. Professor Hawking's comments follow the compromise reached by the European Council at its meeting in Brussels yesterday. The council decided that money from the EU's £37 million science budget could continue to be spent on research into human embryonic stem cells. But it added the condition that no EU cash will be spent on projects in which human embryos are destroyed, which is necessary to harvest stem cells. That caveat was enough for Germany and seven other EU states to drop their call for a complete ban on future funding on stem cell research.
The Guardian

York St John granted university status
York St John University College has become the latest higher education institution in the UK to be granted university status by the Privy Council. The principal, Dianne Willcocks, who will become vice-chancellor when the college officially becomes a university on October 1, said it was a landmark announcement for the 165-year-old institution. Professor Willcocks said: "It is difficult to put into words what it means for all of the staff and students at York St John to be acknowledged as a university.
The Guardian

Bristol to end provision for visually impaired students
Bristol University is to close its specialist summer schools for visually impaired students, prompting plans for a protest. The university has confirmed that its centre for access and communication studies, which has provided adult education through summer schools to visually impaired students for the past 25 years, will close at the end of this year. The university says it can no longer afford to retain it. The move has outraged visually impaired students, who argue that the courses run by the unit are in demand and in some cases, oversubscribed. They say that this will leave at least 200 students with very few study options.
The Guardian

Top Chinese university bans noisy tour groups
One of China's most prestigious universities has closed its gates to tour groups, saying they cause too much of a ruckus on campus, a Chinese newspaper said today. Peking University, sometimes called China's Harvard, would still allow individual visitors and high school students, but said the traffic, souvenir vendors and noise caused by private groups was simply too much, the China Daily said. "Going through the west gate once, I thought I was in a farmers' market," the newspaper quoted a student praising the decision on a school-run discussion board as saying. The tour groups are often made up of ambitious parents trying to inspire their children, some of them still in primary school, to study hard, the newspaper said.
The Scotsman

University calls on Oliver to add a degree of innovation
Edinburgh University has poached a leading professor in competitiveness and innovation from Cambridge University to head up its management school. Professor Nick Oliver - who originally graduated from the Capital's oldest seat of learning - is also a specialist in the management of new product development and manufacturing. The university's principal, Professor Timothy O'Shea, said Professor Oliver would help the management school forge better links between business and management.
The Scotsman

Oxford student hunted over St Tropez attack
An Oxford University student was being sought by French police yesterday after a wealthy American banker was left fighting for his life following an attack in a fashionable St Tropez nightclub. Colin Hall, 35, described as "completely non-aggressive", suffered serious head injuries when he was allegedly struck with a bottle by a man who apparently objected to him talking to another Oxford student, Laura Clegg. Mr Hall, originally from Chicago but living in Paris, was attacked in the early hours of yesterday in the Caves du Roy club, a regular haunt of superstars and the fabulously rich.
The Daily Telegraph

Students' threat to village life
Green-belt land and ivory towers don’t always mix well, and as universities look to expand, they are locking horns with villagers who want to preserve the quiet life. “We will be swamped,” says Richard Frost, the chairman of Heslington Parish Council, who fears that the creation of the University of York’s new campus will destroy village life for Heslington’s 750 residents. York University already has a hall of residence on the outskirts of the village, but locals aren’t too happy with the lifestyle of students. “They live rather different hours,” Frost said. “We aren’t anti-student, but this will change the whole personality of the village,” he continues. And 90 per cent of villagers agree with him.
The Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (July 21)

Report warns of earth scientists shortage
Britain is facing a chronic shortage of geophysicists as fewer students choose to study geophysical science at university and leading scientists in the field retire, a new study reveals. The problem has reached crisis point and if the current rates of decline continue there will be no geophysics undergraduates by 2030, the British Geophysical Association report warns. Geophysicists study climate change, radioactive waste disposal, nuclear test surveillance, energy supply, global water resources, archaeological heritage, earthquakes and volcanoes.
The Guardian

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