Today's news

May 30, 2006

Lecturers back boycott of Israeli academics
Britain's largest lecturers' union yesterday voted in favour of a boycott of Israeli lecturers and academic institutions who do not publicly dissociate themselves from Israel's "apartheid policies". Delegates at the annual conference of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education in Blackpool narrowly backed the proposal, despite mounting international pressure from those opposed to a boycott, including a petition from more than 5,000 academics and a plea from the Israeli government.
The Guardian, The Independent

Pension fund punt could undermine UK universities
While universities have been in very public turmoil over the lecturers' pay dispute, another, far more serious threat to academic finances has been incubating. Universities Superannuation Scheme, Britain's second largest pension fund after BT Group, has racked up a deficit of £6.6 billion and has assets to cover only just over three-quarters of its £28.3 billion liabilities. To put that into context, the discretionary reserves of all the institutions funded by the Higher Education Funding Council For England are less than £5.5 billion.
The Financial Times

Dons debunk claim that state pupils do better at Oxbridge
Oxford academics have challenged the belief that state-educated pupils perform better at university than those who have been privately educated. Their study suggests that at Oxford and Cambridge, A-level grades accurately indicate success and that admissions tutors should not be more lenient towards those from state schools. Oxford and Cambridge took a smaller proportion of entrants from state schools in 2004 than the previous year, despite government pressure.
The Times

Teenager stabbed to death on train was St Andrews student
A teenager who was stabbed to death on a Virgin Cross Country train was a history student at St Andrews University, it emerged yesterday. Thomas Grant, 19, who had just finished his first-year examinations, was travelling on the Glasgow to Paignton train on Saturday afternoon to his parents' home in Churchdown, Gloucestershire, when he was stabbed in the chest after he reportedly intervened in a dispute between a young woman and her partner.
The Scotsman, The Times, The Independent

Universities now face strike threat from cleaning staff
Tens of thousands of university cleaners, porters and other support staff could strike unless a dispute over pay and hours is resolved, union leaders said yesterday. The "forgotten army" of 150,000 workers across the UK are involved in a similar pay row to university lecturers, who have been refusing to mark students' work as part of a campaign for a 23 per cent wage rise. The cleaners are campaigning to have their basic hourly rate of £5.67 increased to £6.50. The support staff, who include gardeners and administrators, are also seeking a cut in hours.
The Scotsman

Top scientist gives up on creationists
A leading British scientist said yesterday that he had given up trying to persuade creationists that Darwin's theory is correct after repeatedly being misrepresented and, he said, branded a liar. Speaking at the Guardian Hay festival at Hay-on-Wye, the evolutionary biologist Steve Jones spoke of his frustrations when trying to debate with religious opponents. "I don't engage with creationists directly," he said, saying that, when he had, they had frequently quoted him out of context or accused him of lying. "If somebody has decided to believe something - whatever the evidence - then there is nothing you can do about it."
The Guardian

Tiny lifesaving pump avoids open heart surgery
A tiny device could relieve the need for open heart surgery for thousands of patients. The dual-purpose pump would be fed into an artery in the groin area and pushed up inside the body until it reaches the heart. Once there it would be powered by a battery pack worn on a belt. As well as increasing the flow of blood to the heart, the device would relieve pressure on the heart itself by pumping oxygenated blood to the body's other organs. The new pump is being developed by scientists at Brunel University's Institute for Bioengineering and doctors at London's Royal Brompton Hospital.
The Daily Mail

From the weekend's papers:

Saturday

  • Pay talks between universities and lecturers have stalled. The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent
  • Academics from around the world have signed a petition in support of Israeli lecturers. The Guardian
  • Boris Johnson has only hinted that the Conservatives are in favour of privatising universities. The Evening Standard

Sunday

  • Students are demanding value for money from their universities. The Sunday Telegraph
  • Plans for a global research centre to rival Oxford and Cambridge are being drawn up for Wye village in Kent. The Sunday Telegraph
  • More British students could follow in the footsteps of Euan Blair and study in the USA . The Sunday Times
  • Pro-Test is marching in support of Oxford University next Saturday. The Sunday Telegraph

Monday

  • Lecturers are demanding a more generous pay deal before calling off their strike action. The Financial Times, The Times, The Daily Telegraph
  • One third of final-year students visit their GP because of the stress of exams. The Daily Telegraph
  • The continued campaign of animal rights protestors against the likes of Oxford University has not won over the public. The Daily Telegraph
  • The University of Central Lancashire and Lakes College will offer Britain's first course in dismantling nuclear power stations. The Financial Times

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