Today's news

January 11, 2006

Oxbridge rivalry spreads to boardroom
The ancient rivalry between England's most famous universities is about to move beyond the sports field and examination hall to the boardroom as a new multi-million-pound investment fund formed by colleges at Oxford announced plans to tout for business in Cambridge. News of the launch of Oxford Investment Management came the same day that Cambridge announced the names of top City financiers who will join a new investment board responsible for £1 billion of the university's assets. While both universities are straining to pool their endowments to match the returns of big Ivy League investment funds in the US, the Oxford initiative will pose a competitive threat to the Cambridge fund, which hopes its colleges will chose to pool assets into the central fund. Several of Oxford's colleges will provide the initial £100 million of the fund, which will be run as a commercial business by former Deutsche Asset Management directors.
The Financial Times

Increase in fees to benefit academic funding
Higher student tuition fees will improve university income to such an extent that the sector will have a combined operating surplus of £4 million by 2008-09, according to university funding chiefs. The forecast, in a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, shows the operating surplus for universities, estimated at £70 million last year, will dip to a £41 million deficit for the current academic year but then rise to an estimated annual £4 million once students in all three years of undergraduate courses are paying fees of £3,000 a year. The short-term deficits are likely to be caused by higher staff costs as universities try to satisfy lecturers that their pay will be improved by the new settlement.
The Financial Times

Experts will meet to plan response amid bird flu spread fears
Scotland's universities were yesterday summoned to a meeting with the Executive to discuss their preparations for a bird flu pandemic as fears rise that the disease is heading for Britain. Senior police officers will meet separately to discuss contingency plans in the event of a global outbreak, which some experts fear could kill two million people in Britain and severely damage staffing levels in the emergency services. Some experts are warning a pandemic could result in 50 per cent of people being off work because they are sick, caring for dependents, too scared to turn up or unable to do so if the transport system is severely affected. It emerged that the world's third largest bank, HSBC, was planning for absence that high.
The Scotsman

Rise in students gaining firsts
More students are getting first-class honours as they graduate from British universities, according to figures published yesterday. The Higher Education Statistics Agency also shows that nearly one in five students gaining degrees now comes from outside the UK. The latest figures show that in 2004-05 there were 306,365 first degree graduates compared with 292,090 in 2003-04, an increase of 5 per cent. Of those students, 11 per cent obtained a first-class honours - the highest grade in the British degree classification - compared with 10 per cent in 2003-04, and 43 per cent obtained an upper second-class honours award, compared with 44 per cent in the previous year.
The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph

Pressure over Elgin Marbles as piece of the Parthenon goes back to Greece
Greece announced yesterday that a German university intended to return a piece of the Parthenon, increasing pressure on the British Museum to do the same with the Elgin marbles. According to the Greek culture ministry, Heidelberg University was "disposed" to give back the heel of a male depicted in the frieze which originally adorned the Parthenon. It said the assurance had been given to the Greek prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, by the university's vice chancellor Angelos Haniotis, who is of Greek origin. A ministry statement said the university's offer to hand back the heel was "judged as a measure of exceptional symbolic importance in so far as it is the first part of the Parthenon frieze returned to Greece".
The Daily Telegraph

Cancer in sights of new nanotechnology centre
The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, opened a multidisciplinary nanotechnology centre (MNC) at Swansea University yesterday. The MNC will bring together more than 30 experts in engineering, medicine, physics, biology and chemistry to develop projects that go beyond traditional areas of study to create new technological applications. Research at the MNC includes a project with a potentially huge impact on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. A nanoscale sensor is being developed that would be implanted in the bodies of high-risk patients in order to detect the growth of cancer cells and to pick up signs of relapse after treatment. The MNC is also performing research on the structure of blood clots, with important implications for treating haemorrhages in emergency trauma patients.
The Guardian

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