Today's news

October 24, 2006

Welsh university heads call for action over funding gap
Welsh university chiefs are urging assembly members to make urgent changes to a draft budget amid fears underfunding of higher education is worsening in Wales. The draft budget is to be debated in the assembly today, but vice-chancellors have warned that it still fails to address an estimated higher education "funding gap" in Wales. Interim research findings from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales this year showed that there was a funding gap between Welsh and English universities of between £16 million and £24 million in 2003-04 - the most recent figures - when institutions were compared on a "like-for-like" basis and "subject mixes" were taken into account.
The Guardian

Marketing costs millions
Spend, spend, spend seems to have become the motto of university marketing departments. But where is all the money going? According to a consultant’s report, more than a third of university managers have no idea how much money their institution spends on marketing. And about the same proportion have no system to track the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. In the report, by Euro RSCG Riley, a third of respondents say that their annual marketing budget is more than £500,000, and 13 per cent say that it tops £1 million. Two thirds of respondents say that their institution’s marketing budget has grown by between 11 and 20 per cent in the past three years.
The Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Oct 20)

Fight for Highland university hits hold-up
The long campaign to have a university for the Highlands and Islands has suffered a serious setback with news that it will not be awarded its title next year. It had been hoped for some time that the UHI Millennium Institute would secure full university status in 2007 to coincide with the Highland Year of Culture. However, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has decided that more work needs to be done before the target can be achieved. The QAA said UHI's programmes were of a high quality and notable for their support for student learning and needs. However, it wants to see a "strengthening of the structures" of the proposed university.
The Scotsman

Nobel chemist joins Cardiff University
The German Nobel laureate Robert Huber has joined Cardiff University to lead research in chemical biology, it emerged today. The announcement coincides with the launch of a government programme to attract more overseas scientists to the UK. Professor Huber, from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany, will spearhead the development of structural biology, part of a university-wide initiative in chemical biology, on a part-time basis. Professor Huber was awarded the 1988 Nobel prize in chemistry - with Johann Deisenhofer and Hartmut Michel - for the determination of the three-dimensional structure of a photosynthetic reaction centre.
The Guardian

Scientist says he paid Russia mafia for mammoth
Disgraced South Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk said today that he spent part of private donations for research to pay the Russian mafia for mammoth tissues to clone extinct elephant species. Hwang, once celebrated as a national hero, was indicted in May on charges of fraud and embezzlement after prosecutors said he was the mastermind of a scheme to make it look like his team had produced stem cells through cloning human embryos. He previously told a Seoul court that he spent part of more than 1 billion Korean won (£558,000) in corporate donations for "peripheral activities related to research."
The Scotsman

UK scientists attack Lancet study over death toll
A study which found that more than 650,000 Iraqi people have died since the US-led invasion was attacked by scientists in the UK, who claimed that the households interviewed tended to be located in violence-hit streets. Sean Gourley and Professor Neil Johnson of the physics department at Oxford University and Professor Michael Spagat of the economics department of Royal Holloway, University of London, claimed the methodology of the study was fundamentally flawed by what they term "main street bias". But the lead author of the study, which was published by the Lancet medical journal, said their criticism was "a misconception".
The Guardian

Staying lean may help the body to reject cancerous cells
Keeping slim may help ward off cancer, according to a study which has discovered that lean animals are better able to fight the disease than obese ones. Researchers conducted tests on mice with a form of non-melanoma skin cancer - squamous cell cancer - triggered by exposure to artificial sunlight. Some animals had fat surgically removed, while others were helped to stay slim by exercising. In both cases raised levels of cancer cell death were found. With less fat, tumour cells were more likely to undergo apoptosis, a process of "programmed suicide" by which the body rids itself of damaged and potentially dangerous cells.
The Daily Telegraph, Nature

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