Today's news

September 21, 2006

Liverpool slated as number of firsts soars
Liverpool University has been accused of lowering its academic standards after controversial reforms introduced during this year's pay dispute led to an explosion in the number of top honours degrees awarded. Across the university, 72 per cent of students received a first or an upper second, compared with 63 per cent last year. It is understood that the overall figures mask greater increases in some subjects and in the proportion of firsts awarded.
The Times Higher Education Supplement   (Sept 22), The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph

Cancer scientist jailed for animal test attacks
A cancer research scientist who was tortured by a moral dilemma over animal experimentation waged a sabotage campaign against companies linked to the animal testing firm Huntingdon Life Sciences. Joseph Harris, 26, a doctor of molecular biology at Nottingham University, was jailed for three years yesterday after he became the first person to be convicted under legislation aimed at animal rights activists. The scientist turned saboteur after claiming he had come under increasing pressure to carry out animal research to further his career, Northampton Crown Court heard. He believed that animal experiments caused unjustified suffering.
The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times

Scop revamp sharpens focus
The Standing Conference of Principals relaunched itself this week in a bid to show the world it is still alive and kicking after the defection of several prominent institutions that became universities. Scop, the body that has represented higher education colleges for the past 28 years, will now be known as GuildHE. It will have a new mission to focus more on representing small specialist institutions. The name was chosen to "emphasise the importance to our members of collective endeavour, mutual support and shared vision", said its chair Pamela Taylor, Newman College principal.
The Times Higher Education Supplement (Sept 22), The Guardian

Three years old – give or take three million
The skeleton of a little girl who died three million years ago could shed new light on human evolution, scientists say today. The small bundle of bones from what is now a desert in northern Ethiopia has been nicknamed Selam (peace) by her discoverers and represents the most complete ancient infant of this geological age, estimated to be about three years old when she drowned. The unprecedented discovery opens many new avenues for efforts to understand the childhood of our early ancestors. Selam's bones suggest she walked upright but may have been good at climbing trees as well.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times

Heart disease scientists get £162K grant
Researchers at Edinburgh University have been awarded £162,200 towards their work on breathing problems during sleep. The British Heart Foundation grant will help researchers looking into the links between heart disease and sleep apnoea. The awards are made every two months by the BHF's project grants committee to fund research into the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. Jeremy Pearson, BHF associate medical director, said: "The BHF funds over £50 million of heart research every year and our project grants make up a major part of this research. This latest round of grants will advance our knowledge so we can better understand, prevent, diagnose and treat Britain's biggest killer."
The Scotsman

Faint new ring discovered around Saturn
The Cassini spacecraft has revealed a previously unknown ring around Saturn. It appears to be the result of meteoroids blasting material off the surface of two of Saturn's moons. The new ring is very faint, and it took a unique event in Cassini 's tour around Saturn to reveal it. On Sunday, Cassini spent a record 12 hours in Saturn's shadow, which allowed it to scrutinise the rings as they were being strongly backlit by the Sun. Mission scientists found the new ring at the same orbital distance as Saturn's moons Janus and Epimetheus, which measure 194 and 138 kilometres across, respectively. That location suggests they may be the source of the ring's material.
New Scientist

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