Today's news

March 29, 2006

Lecturers 'barred' from pay talks until marking ban ends
Lecturers protested outside the University of London today, demanding to be included in pay talks with employers. Members of the Association of University Teachers and Natfhe have effectively been barred from the negotiating table until they call off their industrial action. Both unions have refused to do any student marking or set any exams until their demands for a 23 per cent pay increase over three years are met. A one-day strike was held earlier this month. A spokesman for the employers, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, said Natfhe and the AUT had not been excluded from the talks, but it was not prepared to talk to them if they continued their marking suspension.
The Guardian

Lecturers' union dismisses 'derisory' pay offer
Relations between university staff and their employers reached a new low last night after unions dismissed a pay offer as "derisory" and insisted they would continue with industrial action. The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association officially tabled an offer of 6 per cent over two years. But the Association of University Teachers, which is looking for a 20 per cent increase over three years, instantly rejected the offer. Union representatives were not allowed to attend the meeting at which the offer was made, prompting them to describe it as "a pointless publicity stunt".
The Scotsman

Make A level harder for all, says exams chief
A levels will be made harder for every pupil under a new blueprint devised by the Government's exams watchdog. Ken Boston, the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, will make it clear in a speech today that all candidates face tougher questions under his recommended option for improving A levels. He will also signal the introduction of a new A* grade at A level for the brightest candidates. Ministers had planned to introduce either an optional harder paper for high-flyers or an optional set of questions to be answered by them at the end of the main exam. Universities have complained that they cannot select the best candidates because so many pupils get A grade passes.
The Independent

Hooke papers on birth of modern science saved for UK
A 17th-century manuscript documenting the birth of modern science has been saved for the nation. With minutes to spare at Bonhams auctioneers in central London, the Royal Society agreed an 11th-hour deal to buy the papers for "about £1 million". The manuscript, penned by the formidable scientist Robert Hooke, is described by Bonhams as "encapsulating the revolution in scientific understanding that marks the beginning of the modern world. Few memorials of the scientific revolution can have greater resonance." The guide price ranged from £1 million to £1.5 million.
The Guardian

Great fakers scammed ancient Italy
An ingenious counterfeit-coin scam has been rumbled by scientists in Italy. But no one is going to jail, because the forgers lived more than 2,000 years ago. Giuseppe Giovannelli of the University of Rome 'La Sapienza' and his colleagues took a close look at what seemed to be a silver coin minted in southern Italy in the third century BC. It turned out to be a lump of lead with a thin silver coating. This is not the first example of counterfeiting in the ancient world, but the researchers say that in this case the silver coating seems to have been created by a sophisticated chemical process.

Biodegradable phone will sprout sunflowers
A mobile phone implanted with a sunflower seed and made from biodegradable material is among the cutting edge cellular technology which has been unveiled at the Science Museum. The theory is that the biodegradable phone cover will release nutrients as it deteriorates, helping the sunflower grow. It is hoped that the prototype, developed by researchers from Warwick University, will mean phone covers can simply be buried in the ground after use. The innovation was one of a series of biodegradable phones on display at the Dead Ringers? exhibition at the Science Museum.
The Daily Telegraph

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