Today's news

April 3, 2006

Pay row could leave final exams unmarked
Thousands of students revising for final exams face leaving university without a degree as lecturers step up an assessment boycott. The two unions representing academic staff reported a rush of membership applications after the decision by vice-chancellors to offer pay rises of six per cent over two years, just above the level of inflation. Action already launched at most universities includes a refusal to mark dissertations or coursework, check the marks of external examiners and supervise oral "vivas". PhD students have already been affected and undergraduates will be hit by the refusal to mark exams which start next month.
The Daily Telegraph

Plagiarism row leads Raj Persaud to step down from radio show
Britain's best known psychiatrist, Raj Persaud, who is at the centre of allegations of plagiarism, will not present the new series of Radio 4's mental health programme All in the Mind , the BBC confirmed yesterday. Dr Persaud had two articles retracted by different publications amid allegations that passages were reprinted word for word from a work by American academic Thomas Blass, a professor at the University of Maryland. A BBC spokeswoman said: "Dr Raj Persaud offered to stand down until this matter was resolved. The forthcoming series will be presented by a series of guest presenters, including Claire Hammond and Tanya Byron."
The Guardian

Head of Sorbonne attacks 'ignorant' student protesters
The president of the world-renowned Sorbonne University has branded French students protesting about the country's new employment law "ignorant and stupid". Reacting to protests over the law, which makes it easier for employers to fire, and therefore presumably more willing to hire, young workers, Jean-Robert Pitte said the youngsters had no dreams but believed everything was due to them as a right without having to work for it. "I'm very angry about the demagogy, the ignorance and the stupidity of the young and of the French," said Dr Pitte, 56, a geography professor who has taught at Oxford and Cambridge and holds the Légion d'honneur.
The Guardian

Oxford conquer waves to win boat race
Oxford took the 152nd boat race by storm yesterday, in a race where fortunes turned halfway between Hammersmith Bridge and Chiswick Eyot. Winning the toss and choosing the Surrey station to give them the outside of the first bend opened the door for the Dark Blues, and being on the inside of the bend after Hammersmith, where the rough water hit the crews like a wall, closed the door behind them. Cambridge were half a second ahead at the milepost and settling to a rhythm which kept them alongside Oxford up to Hammersmith. But the bend turned to Oxford's favour as they shot the bridge a second ahead.
The Independent, The Scotsman, The Times, The Guardian

Laughter really is the best medicine
It might be regarded as a statement of the obvious. But scientists have proved what everyone else takes for granted - that laughter really is good for you. It turns out that even the anticipation of watching a funny video can raise the levels of immune-boosting hormones in the blood and the benefits can last up to a day. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University found that people expecting to watch a funny movie had per cent more beta-endorphins and 87 per cent more human growth hormone hurtling around their blood compared with a control group. He will present his work today at a meeting of the American Physiological Society.
The Guardian

Fly me to the moon - by catapult
It may read like a far-flung plotline from a science-fiction comic, but Scots scientists have unveiled plans to develop a giant slingshot to catapult material from the earth to the moon. The project - by the University of Glasgow - will explore whether it is theoretically possible to create massive cables then use the power of the earth's orbit to catapult raw materials for mining, food, water and aerospace equipment into space. Dr Gianmarco Radice and Professor Matthew Cartmell believe such a system could replace rockets and prove far cheaper.
The Scotsman

From the weekend's papers:

Saturday

  • Researchers at Durham University have found that some GCSEs are easier than others. The Times, The TES 
  • Students are more likely to have a part-time job than spend time in the pub. The Daily Telegraph

Sunday

  • Students are asking that an age limit be put on people applying to study medicine. The Sunday Express
  • Letter: the suspension of Dr Frank Ellis goes against academic freedom. The Sunday Times

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