Today's news

April 28, 2006

AUT to hear students' boycott grievances
The Association of University Teachers will come under increased pressure today to end its marking boycott as general secretary, Sally Hunt, meets disgruntled students. Ms Hunt's meeting this afternoon with several student unions opposed to the lecturers' strike action follows pleas from the National Union of Students for lecturers to start setting exams to prevent long-term disruption to students. In a significant U-turn, the NUS yesterday publicly called on the AUT to follow the lead of the other striking lecturers' union, Natfhe, and begin setting exams. Natfhe members are not marking assessments but have agreed to prepare exams.
The Guardian

Sussex set to scrap plans to close chemistry department
Sussex University is expected to abandon plans to close its chemistry department following the recommendation of an influential academic committee that instead it should invest more money in chemistry. The Royal Society of Chemistry is confident the university senate will take the advice of the committee, led by Jonathan Bacon, dean of the School of Life Sciences. "If that happens, we might be witnessing a dramatic watershed following a series of chemistry department closures in the UK," said Richard Pike, RSC chief executive.
The Financial Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Apr 28)

Drop in applications to English universities
School-leavers and mature students are shunning English universities, according to official figures that reveal fewer students have applied to university compared with last year. The slump in applications comes as universities across England prepare to introduce tuition fees of up £3,000 a year in September. However, the new figures were more positive in Wales, which experienced an increase in the number of applications. Latest figures from the admissions service, Ucas, show that by the end of March 424,560 students had applied to start university this autumn compared with 438,624 at the same point last year.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Apr 28)

Students take stand on fees with flip-flops
Student activists have sent Lib Dem MSPs flip-flops in protest at plans to raise fees for medical students. Edinburgh University's Student Association claims Scottish Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen is opposed to variable fees, but has refused to rule out introducing them at universities. They claim he is flip-flopping, leaving prospective students in the dark about their future debts, and potentially opening the door to top-up fees in Scotland.
The Scotsman

Security fears plague deadly disease lab's move to central London
Plans to shift the UK's leading medical research institute to central London are under fire because the move would include the institute's facility for working with dangerous pathogens. In July 2005, the Medical Research Council announced a plan to relocate the prestigious National Institute for Medical Research from its home in suburban Mill Hill to London. The MRC has claimed that the move would foster more clinical research, primarily through collaboration with the University College London and its teaching hospital. The announcement came after months of acrimonious debate between the council and the institute's researchers.

Olive tree rewrites classical history
A burnt olive tree has helped to resolve a controversy over dating key events in the Mediterranean that took place more than three millennia ago. The new dates would change the chronology of the Minoans, Greeks, Cypriots and others by a century, realign history and raise questions about the Egyptian chronology and the genesis of Classical civilisation. The rewriting of the history of the Aegean has come in part from an elaborate study of charcoal and seed samples from a number of sites dated to between 1700BC and 1400BC, and partly from a single olive tree. The gnarled stump was found in a volcanic rock layer on the Greek island of Santorini (Thera).
The Daily Telegraph, The Independent

Trial to test how stem cells heal a broken heart
Some of the most heartening reports in stem-cell research have come from doctors who showed that injecting damaged hearts with stem cells could revive them. But how the stem cells heal the heart has been far more controversial. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have begun a trial with a new twist that they say will help settle the debate. The researchers are injecting stem cells into the hearts of individuals set for a heart transplant and then examining the removed hearts to see how the stem cells behave.

The NUS stands by its decision to support better pay for lecturers.
The Independent, The Guardian

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