Today's news

June 16, 2006

Research funding changes 'undercut science and maths'
The Government's "botched" changes to research funding, which would hit chemistry researchers to the tune of £6m a year, were condemned by the chairman of the Commons science committee, Phil Willis. Maths and computer science are the other main potential casualties of the changes - and universities such as Cambridge, Manchester and Imperial College, which have strong departments in these subjects, will suffer serious cuts if the new funding system goes ahead. Mr Willis accused ministers of a lack of "joined-up thinking" between their aim of promoting science and maths in universities and their failure to set up a funding mechanism that would bring it about.
The Guardian

University fees 'not on the agenda'
Jack McConnell caused consternation in the higher education sector yesterday by insisting that top-up tuition fees will not be introduced in Scotland as long as he is First Minister. Leading principals have called for a national debate on higher education funding amid fears that Scotland could fall behind England, where universities are able to charge students up to £3,000 a year. But, speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr McConnell insisted he would not allow universities north of the Border to increase their spending power by following suit.
The Scotsman

Graduates £186m in arrears on loans
Graduates have fallen more than £186 million behind in their student loan repayments. Student Loans Company statistics showed £186.3 million worth of loan repayments were in arrears by the end of the 2005-06 financial year. Students and graduates owed almost £18.7 billion in loans built up over recent years, including those which were not yet due for repayment. The SLC gave figures for two types of loan: mortgage style loans, which involve graduates repaying debts every month; and newer income contingent loans where repayments are usually deducted automatically from graduates' pay by their employers.
The Financial Times, The Times

Johnson wants to give top A-level pupils higher grants
A "grants for grades" plan to give extra financial help to tomorrow's brightest students was outlined by the Conservative higher education spokesman, Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson, speaking at the launch of a pamphlet outlining his personal thinking on university policy yesterday, suggested that students could be given higher grants if they obtained top grade A-level passes.
The Independent

Scots charge medics £1,000 more for crossing the Border
Students from England are to be charged fees of £2,700 a year to study medicine at universities north of the Border, £1,000 more than to study other subjects. The move, agreed by the Scottish Parliament yesterday, was prompted by fears that top-up fees in England will mean a huge influx of students to Scotland, leaving fewer places for Scottish students. However, student representatives point out that this year there has been a 6.5 per cent decline in the number of applications from England to attend medical schools in Scotland.
The Times

Students have to wait for it
Hundreds of Edinburgh University students will not receive their degree upon graduation next week, despite strike action by lecturers being suspended. The students will receive an interim award at their graduation ceremony and will have to wait for a degree through the post. Oliver Bennet, a 23-year-old sociology student, said: "It would be nice to get the certificate on the day but at least I'm graduating." A university spokeswoman said: "The university is working hard to ensure that the majority of our students will receive their degree certificates at their graduation ceremonies."
The Scotsman

Pteroducktyl - the missing link
The ancestors of modern birds may have been waterfowl-like creatures that lived more than 100 million years ago, according to striking fossils to be unveiled by scientists today. Reconstruction of five fossils shows a remarkable inhabitant of a lake in what is now the Changma Basin of Gansu Province in north-west China. The skeletons suggest a bird that could take flight from the water, like a modern duck, while webbed feet, long toes and a large crest on the shin are clear signs that it could swim.
Daily Telegraph, The Independent

Watching World Cup is stressful business
If watching the World Cup with a beer in your hand is your perfect idea of unwinding, you might need to find a better way to relax, say British researchers examining stress levels in soccer fans. With funding from online betting firm Betfair, Loughborough University scientists are measuring at every England game the strains experienced by supporters as well as the added impact of having a bet on the contest. The researchers monitor fans' heart rates throughout the match, take their saliva samples before kick-off, at halftime and after full time and then map the results against a recording of the game.
The Scotsman

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