Today's news

August 31, 2006

University clearing in chaos after computer system fails
Thousands of students are feared to have missed out on good clearing places at university this year after a catalogue of failings in the central admissions system. Admissions officers described a summer of chaos caused by the introduction of a new computer system at the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Technical glitches prevented institutions from finding out when a student had been turned down by a university, which meant that they could not determine how many places to offer through clearing, nor help to organise accommodation for some students.
The Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Sept 1)

University admissions down as top-up fees are introduced
The number of students accepted for university courses has fallen sharply this year as top-up fees come into force, according to figures published yesterday. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said the number of candidates who have had their university places confirmed since A-level results were released two weeks ago was down by 3.7 per cent from 2005. Ucas said 344,964 students have so far had places confirmed, compared with 358,315 by the same point last year.
The Daily Telegraph

Sussex PhDs go their own way on research
Frustrated PhD students who feel their abilities and potential are "stifled" by higher education have set up a new research centre on the grounds of the University of Sussex. The Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society is situated on the Brighton campus, but is independent from the university and will raise its own funding from wealthy individuals. The executive director of the centre, Erich Kofmel, said establishing the centre was the only way to tackle "the persistent underfunding" of the UK higher education system and the lack of bursaries and scholarships for research students.
The Guardian

Online books are coming free, forgetting the extras
Shakespeare's complete works, Dante’s Divine Comedy and other classic works of literature were made available to download and print free of charge yesterday. A new service from Google, the internet search engine, allows patient readers armed with reams of paper to print out a facsimile of the entire original work, even if it runs to several hundred pages. Google, whose stated mission is “to organise the world’s information”, believes that it will help to stimulate interest in classic works - although publishers are nervous that making books freely available could undermine their business.
The Times, The Guardian

New EU states in student surge
The number of students coming from the European Union accession states to British universities has rocketed this year with Poland sending 64 per cent more than in 2005. Of the ten countries that joined the EU in 2004, Cyprus now sends 1,745, the largest number of students and a 15 per cent increase on last year, according to figures from the Universities and Colleges Admission Service.
The Financial Times

Astronomers get a ringside seat for star's death blast
The death of a star exploding as a supernova has been watched directly by astronomers for the first time. They used an orbiting satellite and the world’s most powerful ground-based observatories. The vast cosmic explosion briefly shone brighter than its entire surrounding galaxy as the star was ripped apart, giving scientists an unprecedented look at the way in which all stars, including the Sun, will ultimately end their lives. The dramatic event began on February 18, when an unusual brightening was detected in a star-forming galaxy about 440 million light years away, in the direction of the constellation Aries.
The Times, The Daily Telegraph

Capital stem cell firm in Parkinson's fight
Edinburgh-based Stem Cell Sciences is to take part in an £8.1 million project pitched at combating epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. The company - which licenses its research and then sells cultures of stem cells to test potential new drugs - is one of three firms taking part in the Estools programme supported by the European Union and led by the University of Sheffield. Estools is looking to gain a better understanding of the biology and tools required to control human embryonic stem cells, which are the foundation stones for developing other cells and can be used to grow any type of cell in the human body.
The Scotsman

Why the crunch in snacks is more important than taste
The sound of crunchy food is as important when it comes to how much people enjoy eating as colour and taste, scientists said today. Scientists at the University of Leeds found that people's "enjoyment of biting" increased with louder, crunchier foods. Professor Malcolm Povey, a world expert in ultrasound, said the way in which the brain interprets the information was not yet understood but said it was "highly probable that we are all genetically disposed to appreciating crispiness as a sign of freshness in food".
The Evening Standard

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