Today's news

May 18, 2006

Commons committee fails to break deadlock over university pay
Hundreds of thousands of final year students are facing the prospect of not graduating this summer after an 11th-hour hearing to end the pay dispute between university academics and vice-chancellors ended in failure. Union leaders and employers refused to budge when called to give evidence in front of the education select committee yesterday, making the likelihood of a settlement ahead of the summer's exam season increasingly remote. The deadlock means about 300,000 final year students face not having exams or coursework marked and some still do not know whether they will have any exams to sit.
The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent

Oxford seeks greater limits on animal rights protests
Oxford University returns to the High Court today to extend a wide-ranging injunction against animal rights activists across the city. The university is claiming that there has been an increase in threats against staff and criminal damage of property since work on a £20 million biomedical research centre resumed in November. Construction was suspended for 16 months after the previous contractor pulled out in the face of threats from Speak, an animal rights group. The existing injunction allows 50 people to attend a demonstration opposite the site on South Parks Road each Thursday between 1pm and 5pm.
The Times, The Scotsman

Universities 'to insist on student work experience'
The death of the purely academic degree edged closer yesterday after it emerged that students of subjects such as history and maths may soon be forced to carry out practical work- experience placements before they can graduate. Glasgow, St Andrews and Glasgow Caledonian universities are jointly to investigate whether to make compulsory work-related learning a part of all degree courses. If they find in favour of the proposal, then the system will be rolled out across all Scottish universities. However, the idea has been criticised by some academics.
The Scotsman

Student unions threaten to withhold NUS fees
Several student unions are planning to withhold affiliation fees from the National Union of Students in protest over its support for the striking lecturers, it emerged yesterday. A bitter split in the student movement has developed after the NUS agreed to back the lecturers in their push for a pay rise. The NUS has supported the academics' refusal to mark assessments until their pay demands are met but they are urging lecturers to start setting exams to ensure that students graduate on time. However, at least 30 student unions have opposed the NUS's position.
The Guardian

University buys earliest photo of Rosslyn chapel
The earliest photo of the Rosslyn chapel, a 15th-century building near Edinburgh which became a key setting in the book and film The Da Vinci Code, has been acquired by the University of St Andrews. The image is one of a series of "salt paper" prints made by David Octavious Hill and Robert Adamson. The image, circa 1845, shows a workman sitting on a half-ruined window: repairs were done in the 19th century after the chapel became so decayed it was locked up for decades.
The Guardian

Last human genome chromosome sequenced
Scientists have reached a landmark point in one of the world's most important scientific projects by sequencing the last chromosome in the Human Genome, the so-called "book of life". Chromosome 1 contains nearly twice as many genes as the average chromosome and makes up eight percent of the human genetic code. It is packed with 3,141 genes and linked to 350 illnesses including cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. "This achievement effectively closes the book on an important volume of the Human Genome Project," said Dr Simon Gregory who headed the sequencing project at the Sanger Institute in England.
The Scotsman, Nature

The monkeys who can speak in sentences
The first evidence that monkeys string "words" together to say more complicated things, as humans do, is published today by scientists. Simple vocal languages use a different sound for every different meaning. But there is a limit to the range of sounds that can be made and easily distinguished. So for complicated messages it is more efficient to combine basic sounds in different ways to convey different meanings. A team at the University of St Andrews reports today in the journal Nature that male putty-nosed monkeys ( Cercopithecus nictitans ) in West Africa can combine different sounds to construct new messages, a remarkable discovery.
The Daily Telegraph, New Scientist, The Independent

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