Today's news

July 14, 2006

Teachers criticise plans for A-level alternative
A new pre-university qualification to rival A levels and the increasingly popular International Baccalaureate would prevent pupils from poorer backgrounds securing a place in top universities, teachers warned yesterday. Drafts of a new pre-university qualification known as the Cambridge Pre-U will be sent to schools in October as institutions look for ways to better prepare pupils for higher education. Cambridge International Examinations, part of the university's Cambridge Assessment Group, is working with universities and independent schools in the UK and abroad, to draft syllabuses for at least 12 subjects, including maths, economics, life sciences and languages.
The Guardian

Da Vinci Code in the dock with medievalists
It may have been a blockbuster in print and on screen, but medieval academics from around the world are today debating the historical damage the Da Vinci Code has caused. Leading the 2006 International Medieval Congress in Leeds is a discussion on how Dan Brown's tale has affected public perception and undermined the authority of historical proof. Looking behind some of the claims made in the novel, the aim of the debate will be to provide an academic response to a work of fiction and "above all explore how enthusiasm has changed attitudes to academic history by replacing it with an alternative version, which the public cannot distinguish from the real thing", reads an abstract to the session.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (July 7)

Fine profit as first folio fetches £2.8m - now go we in content
A first folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays attracted feverish bidding at auction in London yesterday before selling for £2.8 million. Moments after the auctioneer opened bids at £1.6 million, two competing buyers, standing at the back of the crush of onlookers, were pushing the figure higher and higher. The 1623 volume they were bidding for - originally priced 20 shillings - is considered to be the most important book in English. It transformed artistic imagination, language, literature and the performing arts. It was published seven years after Shakespeare’s death and contains 36 plays, of which 18 had never been printed. If not for their appearance in the edition, they might have been lost.
The Times

Jackie Stewart gets honorary degree in city
Former world champion racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart was to receive an honorary degree from Edinburgh University today. Sir Jackie, who was Formula One world champion in 1969, 1971 and 1973, was in pole position for the doctor honoris causa at a graduation ceremony to be held this afternoon. Nicknamed the Flying Scot, Sir Jackie was born in Dunbartonshire in 1939. He started his working life as an apprentice mechanic at his family's garage business before entering the world of Grand Prix races behind his older brother Jimmy.
The Scotsman

Honorary degree for "Millionaire" host Tarrant
Television presenter Chris Tarrant will mark more than three decades in showbusiness on Friday when he receives a honorary doctorate from Aston University. The host of hit TV series " Who Wants To Be A Millionaire " will be presented with a degree celebrating his services to the entertainment industry during a ceremony at the university in Birmingham. "I love the Midlands and regard it as my second home, so it is a particular honour for me to receive this doctorate from Aston University," said Tarrant, who was educated at King's School, Worcester, before graduating from Birmingham University.
The Scotsman

Meerkats top of the class when it comes to teaching their young
Meerkats have proved that they are not just amuging faces but are sufficiently intellectual to school their young. Young animals learn from their parents but scientists are divided over the extent to which adults actively teach their offspring. Until now no wild animals have been shown to make efforts to teach their young; it has always been assumed that the young will pick it up as they go along. But a study published in the journal Science shows that meerkats, like human beings, teach their own and relatives’ young. “Wild meerkats school their young,” the researchers from the University of Cambridge concluded after observing meerkats in Africa.”
The Times, The Daily Telegraph

Call to lift ban on sale of organs for transplant
People should be allowed to sell body parts in the UK to address the shortage of donor organs and stop the black market trade overseas, a Dundee researcher urged yesterday. The sale of organs is banned in the UK, but many patients needing donor kidneys are known to have travelled to India, China and other poor countries for transplants. Now Sue Roff, from the Centre for Medical Education at Dundee University Medical School, has argued for people to be paid for donating a kidney, with payments of about £22,000 recommended. She said as evidence for the safety of part liver and lung transplants was available, these operations too could be added to a market model.
The Scotsman

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