Today's news

January 10, 2006

Lecturers attend talks but strike still looms
Lecturers' unions today meet their university employers for a crunch meeting on pay - but they have already given notice of a strike ballot before negotiations take place. The Association of University Teachers said universities would be "brought to a standstill" unless pay talks could be resolved. "Millions of students could be left with coursework unmarked, lectures and seminars cancelled and their exam programmes thrown into chaos if the talks fail," said the union. The other main lecturers' union, Natfhe, has not yet declared a dispute but expects to act in concert with the AUT, with which it is due to merge in the coming year. The unions see the additional income generated by top-up fees as a historic chance to reverse years of declining salaries for academics and say that vice-chancellors pledged to spend one-third of fees income on lecturers' pay.
The Guardian, The Financial Times

Minister backs skills support for staff
Employees could receive government funding to take university courses in vocational subjects as a way to tackle skills shortages hampering the economy, a minister has signalled. In a survey of companies for the Department for Education, the lack of skilled employees was seen as a threat to businesses over the coming year. Of those polled, 84 per cent said 2006 would be blighted by a lack of skilled personnel to fill recruitment needs, and 74 per cent were concerned about a lack of skills among their workers. But in spite of these fears, less than two-thirds of businesses were involved in some kind of vocational training for employees. Less than one in 10 had been involved in designing courses with education providers to help combat skills problems.
The Financial Times

Cameron says Tories will keep tuition fees
David Cameron yesterday confirmed for the first time as Conservative leader that his party would keep student tuition fees. During a school visit, Mr Cameron told a class of sixth-form students: "I'm afraid I think we are going to have to keep student fees." He added: "You want to go to universities that are well-funded, have good tutors, good facilities, and I want as many people who think they are going to benefit from universities to be able to go, and I think if you want those things and if you want to keep taxes down, the money has to come from somewhere." He said the party would, however, review the arrangements for paying back debts.
The Guardian, The Scotsman

New year's revolution
Universities offering degree courses with a January or February start are seeing a record enrolment. A straw poll of institutions reveals applications from UK students to be up by as much as 40 per cent, a figure boosted by the growing numbers of modularised degrees now recruiting in January. Early-year start applications at the University of Bolton, for example, are up by 38 per cent, while the University of East London has seen a rise of 25 per cent to 600 second semester students. With more than 150 options on offer from undergraduate to postgraduate, full and part-time degrees, the University of Derby has been promoting the new year start as a last chance for mature students to beat the rise in top-up fees from September. By enrolling this month, around 1,100 new students at Derby will pay the old £1,175 tuition fee, an annual figure guaranteed for the duration of their course, rather than the higher rate of £3,000 which comes in from September.
The Guardian

Scientist faked it all, except cloned dog Snuppy
With the exception of a single cloned dog, all the major scientific discoveries claimed by Woo Suk Hwang, once the world's leading stem cell scientist, were faked, a university panel concluded today. In its final report on the research of Dr Hwang, who claimed to have cloned the world's first human embryo in 2004 and then to have created patient-specific stem cells in 2005, Seoul National University said that South Korea's former "top scientist" had become a "scandalous case". "These individuals cannot be regarded to represent science in Korea," wrote Myung Hee Chung, the chairman of the panel. Today's report completed the ignominy of Dr Hwang, a national hero in South Korea who was given free first-class flights on Korean Air for a decade and had a set of stamps commissioned to honour the achievements that made him one of the world's most famous scientists.
The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian

Papa's Cuban life unfurled for British academic
A lecturer from the University of Wales, Swansea, has been granted access to the unpublished archive of Ernest Hemingway's life in Cuba, the first time the material has been made available to anyone outside the country. Philip Melling, a reader in the department of American studies, has been given permission to study research conducted by Cuban writers and academics over the past 40 years. The research has not been publicised outside Cuba and Dr Melling hopes the archive will uncover some "groundbreaking findings" in helping to understand the writer's life and work in the country in which he lived for more than 30 years.
The Guardian

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