Today's news

February 23, 2006

Oxford head begins web charm offensive
Oxford University's vice-chancellor, John Hood, yesterday made an historic webcast as he sought to win over staff and students to his controversial reform proposals. It is the first time the head of the 900-year-old university has addressed the scholars via a webcast. The university said Dr Hood, the first outsider to run Oxford when he was appointed from the University of Auckland, was keen to promote internal communications. He gives regular email briefings and has held consultations with staff over governance reform. But the webcasts yesterday and today are taking place against vociferous opposition to his plans to streamline the running of the university and bring in outsiders to a ruling council, and to his leadership style.
The Guardian

Universities criticise technology institute plans
Plans to set up a flagship European Institute of Technology published yesterday are poorly thought-out and will produce a "costly white elephant", said British university heads. The proposal by the European Commission to compete with American rivals such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have already been criticised by Lord Patten, the former European commissioner, who is now chancellor of Oxford. The proposed EIT, which the commission hopes will become operational in 2009, would draw together research teams in universities and also have business involvement. It would consist of a governing board with a small supporting administration and a set of "knowledge communities" distributed all over Europe carrying out the activities in strategic trans-disciplinary areas.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Feb 24)

Lump above eye that 'killed Shakespeare'
Shakespeare scholarship, lively at the best of times, saw the fur flying yesterday after a German academic claimed to have authenticated not just one but four contemporary images of the playwright - and suggested, to boot, that he had died of cancer. As the National Portrait Gallery planned to reveal that only one of half a dozen claimed portraits of William Shakespeare can now be considered genuine Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel said she could prove that there were at least four surviving portraits of the playwright.
The Daily Telegraph

Canaletto's Vauxhall wins reprieve
The Government has halted the export of a pair of historic paintings of London by Canaletto, the 18th-century master, after The Times revealed on Monday that they were destined to leave Britain. David Lammy, the Culture Minister, yesterday extended the deadline for issuing an export licence after a museum came forward at the eleventh hour to express “a serious intention” to raise the £6 million needed to save the paintings. View of the Grand Walk, Vauxhall Gardens and Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh offer a record of a London long gone. The fashionable and idyllic view of Vauxhall Gardens that Canaletto captured in intricate detail in 1751 is now dominated by tower blocks.
The Times

Bid to overturn blood donation rule
Students are launching a campaign to overturn a ban on gay men donating blood. The National Union of Students claims the National Blood Service's guidelines on who can give blood is discriminatory and is stopping hundreds of thousands of people from helping to save lives. There have already been protests at universities in England and students at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen are kick-starting the Scottish campaign.
The Scotsman

Modern humans 'blitzed Europe'
Our ancestors colonised Europe and wiped out their Neanderthal cousins even faster than we thought, says a study published today. Argument has raged for years about whether our ancestors from Africa outsurvived, killed or bred with the Neanderthals, who were stronger, bulkier and shorter but had equally large brains. Now developments in radiocarbon dating suggest that many of the dates published over the past 40 years are likely to underestimate the true ages of the samples. Paul Mellars of the University of Cambridge describes today in the journal Nature how better calibration of radiocarbon ages has led to revisions of radiocarbon dates in the crucial 40,000 to 50,000-year time period when modern humans are thought to have arrived in Europe.
The Daily Telegraph, Nature

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