Today's news

July 12, 2006

Cambridge drafts A-level alternative
Drafts of a new pre-university qualification that could rival A levels will be sent to schools in October as institutions search for ways to better prepare pupils for higher education. Cambridge International Examinations, part of the university's Cambridge Assessment Group, is working with independent schools, in the UK and abroad, and universities to draft syllabuses for at least 12 subjects, including math, economics, life sciences and languages. The Cambridge group wants the post-16 qualification to help students "benefit from a higher education experience which calls for a more independent and self-directed style of learning".
The Guardian

Big debates translate into award win for university
An Edinburgh university has a won an international award for holding multilingual debates at which students translate. Dignitaries are invited to talk in their chosen language at the events held at Heriot-Watt University, and final-year students then interpret what they say to an audience of school children. Judges at the European Award for Languages praised the flexibility and innovation of the scheme. It was one of 12 schemes from across the UK which received recognition. Brian Page, chairman of the judging panel, said: "These 12 projects, with learners from primary through to university, are fantastic examples of how exciting and relevant language learning can be."
The Scotsman

Research finds degree of benefit from vocational courses
Students who enter university from vocational backgrounds achieve better degrees than those doing A levels, according to new research. A study of 216 graduates found that those who entered higher education via the traditional A-level route were more likely to complete degrees. But it also found that students with vocational qualifications, such as NVQs, or those who had studied for access courses, achieved better degree scores than their A-level counterparts. The research by Lesley Sumner and Richard Ralley, of Edge Hill University, Lancashire, concluded that non-direct entry was three times more important than A levels in terms of predicting success.
The Guardian

Student didn't let babies knock her off course
A medical student finally graduated yesterday - after twice giving birth while completing her gruelling five-year degree course. Emma Fardon had to take a break from her studies to become a mother for the first time when Dan was born during the third year of her course and again during her final year, when she gave birth to her second son, Josh, last November. Mrs Fardon, 31, who took just six weeks' maternity leave after Josh was born so she could complete her GP placement and graduate with the rest of her class, admitted that combining motherhood with her medical studies had been "quite tough" at times. "I certainly wouldn't recommend it," she said.
The Scotsman

Student survivor game sequel launched
A new online game which aims to help teenagers prepare for the financial challenges of university life has been launched by student charity Uniaid. The tamagotchi-style game involves users taking control of the life of a virtual student, ensuring they lead a balanced lifestyle and stay alive until graduation. It is the sequel to Student Survivor 1, which Uniaid says has been played by 1.3 million people since its launch in April 2005. Uniaid, a charity that offers help to students through online information and interactive games - and also through a recently begun accommodation bursary scheme - has developed the programme with marketing agency Kerb, HSBC bank and Apple.
The Guardian

Earliest black holes bent the 'laws' of physics
Black holes in the early universe may have circumvented a law of physics to grow rapidly to colossal size. The finding could solve a longstanding puzzle over why such massive objects appeared so soon after the universe began. The new analysis, by Marta Volonteri and Martin Rees, both at the University of Cambridge, UK, ties up all the important factors involved in the growth of a black hole and concludes rapid growth is possible. This might be because the black hole "swallows" the radiation generated as the hole gobbles up the matter around it, preventing a destructive explosion.
New Scientist

Tiny 'digital camera' could restore vision to the blind
There is fresh hope for hundreds of thousands of blind people that they may soon have their sight restored as researchers in Scotland are developing a prosthetic retina. Using technology similar to that found in digital cameras, the tiny device would be implanted into the eye to stimulate a retina that was no longer working. It is designed to help people with age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, conditions that affect about a million people in the UK. These conditions are caused by failure in the retina - the part of the eye which converts light into signals that are sent to the brain.
The Scotsman

A university applicant complains that his stepfather’s income will affect his eligibility for student loans.
The Daily Telegraph

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