Today's news

October 5, 2006

Britain and America dominate list of best universities
Cambridge and Oxford now rank among the top three universities in the world, second only to Harvard in the US, according to the latest global rankings published today in The Times Higher Education Supplement (Oct 6). Both British universities have moved up in the rankings for 2006, with Cambridge knocking the Massachusetts Institute of Technology off the No 2 position and Oxford advancing from fourth position to third. MIT is tied for fourth place with another US university, Yale. The findings will bring cheer to Britain’s higher education sector at a time when some universities are giving warning that chronic underfunding of undergraduate teaching, poor cost recovery on research contracts, salary rises and increased administration costs are pushing their accounts into the red.
The Times, The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Oct 6)

Second university calls for rise in tuition fees
A second leading university called today for students to pay more for their courses as term began for the first generation of undergraduates to be charged top-up fees. Professor Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of Bristol University, said the new £3,000 tuition fee limit was not enough to fund higher education. He suggested fees should rise to £5,000 per year and said he would be pressing ministers for changes. Professor Thomas's comments followed remarks from the vice-chancellor of Oxford yesterday that a rise in top-up fees is "inevitable". Ministers have promised to review fee levels in 2009.
The Evening Standard, The Guardian

Vice-chancellor suggests private university plan for top schools
Leading independent schools could join forces with big US education companies to set up private universities, a vice-chancellor suggested yesterday. The move would help raise the UK's low level of private sector involvement in higher education towards US levels, said Michael Thorne, vice-chancellor of the University of East London. "Eton and Harrow are worldwide brands. It would be an easy stretch, wouldn't it, to go to Eton University?" He said such institutions could develop their own niche within the higher education market, perhaps by offering services to small numbers of students in small class sizes.
The Financial Times

Iraq's universities and schools near collapse
Iraq's school and university system is in danger of collapse in large areas of the country as pupils and teachers take flight in the face of threats of violence. Professors and parents have told how they no longer feel safe to attend their educational institutions. Professionals in higher education, particularly those teaching the sciences and in health, have been targeted for assassination. Universities from Basra in the south to Kirkuk and Mosul in the north have been infiltrated by militia organisations, while the same militias from Islamic organisations regularly intimidate female students at the school and university gates for failing to wear the hijab.
The Guardian

Hawking to write book on why we have a universe
Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge University physicist who wrote the best-selling " A Brief History of Time ," is to start work on a new book that will examine how and why the universe was created. " The Grand Design ," which is expected to be released in the fall of 2008, will be co-authored by Leonard Mlodinow, a physicist and author who collaborated with Hawking on " A Briefer History of Time " which was published last year. Publisher Irwyn Applebaum of Bantam Dell Publishing Group said the experience of the co-authors working on the more reader-friendly " A Briefer History of Time ," motivated them to work together again.
The Scotsman

Stem cell experts seek licence to create human-rabbit embryo
British scientists are seeking approval to create embryos by fusing human cells with animal eggs in controversial research which will boost stem cell science and tackle some of the most debilitating and untreatable neurological diseases. Three teams in London, Edinburgh and Newcastle are to submit simultaneous applications to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority this month, requesting licences to create early-stage "chimeric" embryos that will be 99.9 per cent human and 0.1 per cent rabbit or cow. The HFEA has sought legal advice and encouraged the applications.
The Guardian

University bans dyed hair in 'decency' drive
Fashion-conscious university students in northern Japan are being offered money to do away with their dyed hair and body piercings as part of a drive to tackle falling standards of behaviour. This month Akita Keizaihoka University and an affiliated vocational college introduced a ban on "unusual" hairstyles and colourings, as well as pierced earrings and body piercings that "might make other people feel uncomfortable". The university threatened to discipline students who disobey the rules but said it would also offer a financial sweetener of 10,000 yen (£45) each to encourage them to comply, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.
The Guardian

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