Today's news

April 27, 2006

Sussex v-c reprimanded in Commons report
A highly critical Commons committee report into plans to axe chemistry at the Sussex University will accuse the vice-chancellor, Alasdair Smith, of failing to make any attempt to save the respected department, a draft revealed today. The Science and Technology Select Committee will next week release its report into the closure of the chemistry department and will launch a scathing attack on Professor Smith, accusing him of bad planning and poor consultation. The draft report also criticises Professor Smith for keeping his plans secret from the department's head, Gerry Lawless, and says that the plans to axe the department had not been properly considered and that there was a "serious lack of consultation".
The Guardian

Study warns of dangers of scrapping RAE
Plans by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to abolish the system of rating university research would cost more and lead to increasing separation between teaching and research, according to a study published today. Some universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, would gain millions of pounds from the proposed changes while others like Imperial College London, University College London, Leeds and Newcastle, would lose on a large scale, claims the study by the Higher Education Policy Institute.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Apr 28)

Higher fees would have deterred class of 2006
More than a third of students who are graduating this summer would not have gone to university if they had faced tuition fees of £3,000 a year, according to a survey published today. The study of nearly 16,500 final year students found that half of those graduating from some universities would have been deterred by higher fees. Annual tuition charges will rise from £1,150 to £3,000 a year in September.
The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Apr 28)

NUS pleads with lecturers to set exams
In a dramatic U-turn the National Union of Students has appealed publicly to lecturers to set exams to prevent long-term disruption to students. The Association of University Teachers rejected the plea and said a swift settlement of the dispute would help to avoid a backlog of exams and assessments. The NUS, which has faced splits from several student unions concerned about the impact of the lecturers' industrial action, has publicly backed the campaign by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education and the AUT for a 23 per cent pay rise over three years.
The Guardian

Scots graduates have lowest debt in Britain
Scots students leave university with the lowest debt levels in mainland Britain, according to the results of a study published yesterday. The UK Graduate Careers Survey showed that students at Edinburgh, St Andrews, Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities all graduate with less debt than their English counterparts. The survey also revealed that Strathclyde students are among the most confident in the UK that they will get a good job when they graduate.
The Scotsman

Professors attack illegal drugs rating system
The head of the Medical Research Council has attacked the classification of illegal drugs as arbitrary and illogical. Colin Blakemore, also a professor of physiology at the Oxford University, told MPs on the Science and Technology Select Committee that LSD, magic mushrooms and ecstasy should not be in class A, the most severe category. "Not all the evidence was taken into account in the original classifications and subsequent evidence has not been well incorporated," he said.
The Guardian

Flu drug stockpile must be doubled, say experts
Britain should double its stockpile of the antiviral drug Tamiflu and devise speedy ways to distribute it to affected families if a flu pandemic strikes, computer simulations of how the nation could respond suggest. Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London, who led the research and is a key government adviser, said: "There is no single magic bullet which can control a flu pandemic, but a combination of interventions could be highly effective, potentially saving many lives."
The Daily Telegraph, The Times

Computer will tell Muslim astronaut how to pray in space
Malaysian scientists and religious scholars are trying to determine how Muslims should behave in space, as the predominantly Islamic country prepares to dispatch its first astronaut next year. More than 150 delegates attended a seminar to consider how to pray in space, given the difficulties of locating Mecca and holding the prayer position in zero gravity, as well as other questions such as halal food and washing. The International Space Station moves at almost 17,000mph, so the relative position of Mecca is constantly shifting. Mohamad Sa'ari Mohamad Isa, of the National Technical University College of Malaysia, has helped to develop a computer programme called Muslims in Space to determine when prayers should be made.
The Daily Telegraph

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