Today's news

March 2, 2006

Ministers set to miss target on students
The Government is set to miss its much vaunted target for 50 per cent of youngsters to go to university by 2010, the university funding council has warned. The warning follows a sudden drop in university applications this year as far more school leavers than expected were put off university by top-up fees, which will be up to £3,000 a year from this autumn. Up to 26,000 extra full-time undergraduate places will be created for the 2006-07 academic year, but this is half the number needed to put universities on track to meet the target, the Higher Education Funding Council for England said.
The Independent, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times

Johnson voices support for lecturers' pay campaign
The Conservative shadow education spokesman, Boris Johnson, today gave his backing to the pay campaign by university lecturers. He pledged his support for the lecturers who plan an official strike over pay next Tuesday after he attended a debate on the future of top-up fees as part of a parliamentary lobby organised by the National Union of Students. Mr Johnson said: "I have some sympathy with the current proposed strike by the lecturers and why they feel so hard done by when you consider in real terms their academic pay has fallen by 40 per cent in the past 20 years.
The Guardian

Blow to academies programme as Brunel shelves plan for school
Brunel University has shelved plans to build an academy for 16 to 19-year-olds on its campus, dealing a blow to the Government's plans for a bigger role for the private sector in education. Preparations for the UK's first such academy on a university site were at an advanced stage, but Brunel has decided that it has more pressing needs for the land in Uxbridge, west London. Tony Blair has thrown his weight behind the academies programme, which is designed to raise secondary school standards. The Department for Education and Skills has hailed the involvement of universities in academies, hoping it would placate critics who claimed that businesses and religious groups were being given too much control over the schools.
The Guardian

University laboratories grow business culture
Bunsen burners and microscopes may not be the most obvious tools for budding entrepreneurs, but, in a world where innovation can be a key to commercial success, Britain’s university laboratories are nurturing some of the country’s fastest-growing businesses. Increasingly, academics are being encouraged to safeguard their ideas and research by setting up spin-off companies backed by their university. Jon Cove, senior lecturer in the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology at Leeds University, is one. Two years ago, with his wife Anne Eady, principal research fellow at Leeds, he set up Syntopix, a spin-off company developing treatments for acne and MRSA skin infections.
The Times

Home students fail the spelling test
The poor spelling and grammar of highlyqualified undergraduates has been exposed at a leading university that has compared their command of English with that of its overseas students. It found that home students were far more likely to make basic errors than those with English as a second language. The study, at Imperial College, London, was carried out in the department of biological sciences, where competition for places means students come in with top A-level grades. 
The Times Higher Education Supplement (Mar 3), The Daily Telegraph, The Times

Edinburgh plans £47m animal welfare research centre
A new £47 million research centre that will focus on animal welfare and diseases transmitted between animals and humans is being planned by Edinburgh University. The university is investing £12 million into the Edinburgh Bioscience Research Centre, which will be part of its veterinary school and will be built on a site in Mid Lothian. The announcement comes less than a week after animal rights activists and supporters of vivisection clashed in demonstrations at Oxford University over the building of a new animal testing laboratory.
The Guardian

MRSA 'hiding in hospital sinks and vases'
The deadly MRSA bug could be lurking in a hitherto unsuspected corner of hospital wards, by hiding away inside amoebae: single-celled organisms that flourish in settings such as hand-wash basins and vases of water. British researchers have found that the deadly multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can live and reproduce inside amoebae, as well as being spread from person to person by bodily contact. The discovery, they argue, could mean that hospital personnel may find themselves fighting the killer bug on a new front.

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