Today's news

February 2, 2006

Oxford dons plan formal protest over reforming outsider
Dons at Oxford University are contemplating an unprecedented vote of no confidence in the Vice-Chancellor in protest at his management style. Senior academics are said to be considering a call for a debate in Congregation, Oxford’s “parliament”, on the leadership of John Hood, only 18 months after he was appointed. The arrival of Julie Maxton, an academic from Dr Hood’s former university in New Zealand, as Oxford’s new Registrar, has also inflamed opposition. The bursar of one college yesterday demanded an independent inquiry into the appointment. Dr Hood, a New Zealander, is the first outsider to head Oxford in its 900-year history. He has sparked furious opposition from many academics over plans to modernise the university’s governance. 
The Times Higher Education Supplement (Feb 3), The Times

Money comes with strings attached in latest university funding
Universities will have to run more courses for the benefit of employers and redouble efforts to attract working-class students in return for £6.5 billion of Government funding in the coming year, the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, said today. In her annual letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, she reveals the strings attached to the money with which the government intends to boost student numbers by a further 23,000 in the coming year. The Education Secretary calls for "radical changes" to fund higher education courses which are designed, funded or provided by employers. This will involve short courses and part-time courses to improve employees' skills but universities will also be expected to change their curriculum more quickly in response to learner and employer demand.
The Guardian, The Financial Times

Nobel prizewinner takes up part-time post at Manchester University
Manchester University welcomed the first of what it hopes will be a clutch of "iconic" academics to enhance its reputation when Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prizewinning US economist, took up a post yesterday as chairman of a new poverty research institute. The appointment of Professor Stiglitz, who marked his inaugural lecture yesterday at the Brooks World Poverty Institute with a forthright attack on developed countries' trade policies, is part of Manchester's effort to create a northern academic powerhouse to rival Oxford, Cambridge and London universities. Manchester already claims to be the UK's largest "single site" university following a merger with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in 2004. It also claims to attract more applications from prospective students than any other UK institution.
The Financial Times

Volunteers for déjà vu study wanted. Come again?
University researchers are conducting the world's first study into déjà vu - the feeling that something one is experiencing has happened before. They are seeking volunteers who are chronic sufferers of the condition, which takes its name from the French phrase for "already seen". Psychologists from Leeds University are being funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and will attempt to recreate déjà vu in laboratory conditions. The project coincides with "Groundhog Day" marked on February 2, which featured in the eponymous Hollywood film, and is now commonly used as an alternative term for déjà vu.
The Daily Telegraph

Solar system '10th planet' is bigger than Pluto
Claims that the Solar System has a 10th planet are bolstered by the announcement today that an icy body at its fringes is bigger than Pluto. Scientists have made the first accurate measurement of the size of this putative planet, announced last summer, tentatively called 2003 UB313 and nicknamed Xena before it gets an official name. A group led by Professor Frank Bertoldi from the University of Bonn and Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy has estimated the size by measuring the tiny amount of heat that the body gives off.
The Daily Telegraph, New Scientist, Nature, The Independent

Scientists to develop baby software
Scientists are carrying out research on new software to help doctors treat premature babies, it has emerged. The £480,000 BabyTalk project uses a computer to generate a summary of the baby's medical history and current health status. Research teams from Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities and NHS Lothian are involved in the project which produces reports automatically from the baby's electronic medical notes. They believe this could lead to better decisions being made by staff and better care for babies in neonatal intensive care units.
The Scotsman

Regarding the purpose of the Oxford Colleges' student contract.
The Times

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