Today's news

January 24, 2006

Kelly accused of stifling debate
A call by Ruth Kelly, the education secretary, for universities to crack down on extremists expressing unacceptable views risks stifling legitimate academic debate and fuelling racism, says a report by an advisory body on community relations published yesterday. The report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission warns that in the aftermath of the London bombings Muslim students at universities came to be regarded by ministers as potential "fifth columnists", in a manner "eerily reminiscent of the shameful era of McCarthyism".
The Financial Times

Scottish universities join student survey
Three Scottish universities have signed up to this year's National Student Survey, organisers confirmed today. The universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews have agreed to participate in the second survey, which asks final-year students their opinions on all aspects of university life, from the quality of teaching to academic support and library facilities. Students at the independent University of Buckingham will also be asked to take part for the first time, as will students on initial teacher training courses funded by the Training and Development Agency for Schools. The survey, which is open to all universities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland is not currently involved nationally), is run by the funding council, Hefce, and supported by the National Union of Students.
The Guardian

How does your law department measure up?
For the first time students have had a chance to comment on the quality of their courses - and the results for law are surprising. While King’s College London is the law students’ favourite in “overall satisfaction”, the surprise is the college ranked at No 2 - Edge Hill College of Higher Education in Lancashire. Bottom of the satisfaction table comes the University of Surrey. The student feedback is the result of an initiative by the Higher Education Funding Council for England - the Government quango that funds higher education - called the National Student Survey. In the spring a 22-question survey was sent to all final-year students and 170,000, or 60 per cent, replied. Students were asked to rate the quality of the teaching, learning resources, assessment, feedback, academic support and organisation on their course. They were also asked to rate their personal development and overall satisfaction, all using a five-point scale.
The Times

Students are conscientious, survey shows
The layabout student who struggles to get up in time for the afternoon soap opera before wandering down to the pub is a thing of the past, according to a survey published today. Instead, today's undergraduates are conscientious, dividing their time between the library and part-time work, and spending 20 per cent less on alcohol than five years ago. The annual Unite study by Mori found that today's students are more committed to their studies and more optimistic, with eight out of 10 believing higher education will set them up for a successful career. "The old fashioned perceptions of students are completely out of date now," said Veronica King, vice-president (welfare) at the National Union of Students. "Because of rising debt and the pressure to find a well-paid job at the end of their course, students are being forced to take their studies very seriously."
The Guardian

Student debt 'may be stabilising'
Two-thirds of students are in debt but the amount of money they owe has shown signs of stabilising for the first time in six years, new research has revealed. The average student currently owes £5,267 as a result of going to university, and they expect this to rise to £9,692 by the time they graduate, according to student accommodation company Unite. But this was down slightly on the £5,285 students questioned in last year's survey owed, and the £9,744 debt they expected to have amassed by the time they graduated.
The Scotsman

Brown opens disease research unit
Chancellor Gordon Brown has opened a pioneering research unit which aims to tackle some of the world's most neglected diseases. The £13 million Drug Discovery Unit at Dundee University is the first of its kind in Europe. The aim of the unit is to translate basic research discoveries into candidate drugs ready for clinical trials. The diseases, which include parasitic types including African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), Chagas and Leishmaniasis, are among the most neglected in the world. Mr Brown said: "This is a unit which gives hope to 30 million people in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa and India, and hope therefore for thousands of people who die unnecessarily and avoidably every year.
The Scotsman

Head of new ELT research centre appointed
A leading authority on English language teaching is heading up a new research centre for learning and assessment at the University of Luton. Cyril Weir, who has taught and advised on language testing and the curriculum in 50 countries, takes up the Powdrill chair in English language acquisition, which is funded by an endowment worth more than £1 million, given to the university by a charitable trust. The money will be used to set up the Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment, which aims to improve academic literacy and language skills among students.
The Guardian

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