Today's news

October 9, 2006

Top degree students 'should be rewarded'
Universities should reward students who gain the highest marks in their degrees with "substantial" cash payments, Boris Johnson, the shadow higher education minister, said yesterday. The new ''golden handshakes" would be an incentive for students to work hard and a disincentive for universities to award so many first class degrees. "If universities were offering substantial sums to those who do well in finals, they might be discouraged from being so profligate with the number of first class and upper seconds they award. "A lot of students work very hard but it would be fair to say that not everyone at every university works as hard as they could do," he said.
The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Oct 6)

Universities try clocking in to stop students skipping classes
University students are being asked to "clock in" to lectures and tutorials in an attempt to ensure attendance and cut drop-out rates from courses. An electronic monitoring system is being tested at two universities and nine more have expressed an interest in using it to track students. Its inventors insist they want to help students rather than enforcing a Big Brother approach, but the development coincides with some universities introducing good behaviour contracts which warn lazy students they could face disciplinary procedures or even expulsion if they fail to turn up for lectures. The National Union of Students branded the scheme draconian, saying students were being tagged like criminals.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Aug 4)

Q. What's Italian for 'A fitness team is meeting in the pub'?
An Italian academic has sounded the alarm over the “infiltration” of his national language by English terms - but admits that “the battle has probably already been lost”. Michele Cortelazzo, lecturer in linguistics at the University of Padua, said that the tendency to absorb English terms existed in all European languages. “In Italy, however, there has been a massive influx of English words, even when there is a perfectly adequate and useable Italian equivalent”. He said that prime recent examples were flop instead of the Italian fiasco , and trend instead of tendenza . Before sprinkling their conversation with English terms Italians should ask themselves if they are not simply attracted by the exotic fascination of foreign words, Signor Cortelazzo said.
The Times

Prehistoric Syrian giant evolved into modern-day camel
Swiss and Syrian archaeologists working in Syria's Palmyra desert claim to have uncovered the remains of a giant camel that lived 100,000 years ago and once stood "as big as a giraffe or an elephant". Researchers at the University of Basel first came across a set of extraordinarily large bones three years ago while excavating in the El Kowm area, 250km north of the capital Damascus, but were only able to confirm the remains came from a camel once further fragments were found this summer.
The Independent

Tea soothes a troubled mind, say scientists
The soothing power of a regular cup of tea has been given more backing from science with research that shows it can reduce the harmful effects of stress. Stress hormone levels fell by nearly twice as much in tea drinkers compared with those given a tea-like drink, after all had been put under stress. The research from University College London was designed so that neither the drinkers nor the scientists knew what was taken during the exercise. The research involved 75 young men who were regular tea drinkers. All gave up normal tea, coffee and decaffeinated drinks for six weeks and drank one of two "tea" mixtures, four times a day instead.
The Daily Telegraph

Phone texts analysed for evidence
Scientists are analysing the way people write mobile phone text messages so police can use them as evidence. Psychologists at Leicester University are examining text messages sent in by more than 160 members of the public to see if an individual's "text-speak" style can be pinpointed in a similar way to their handwriting. They hope the project will help police conclude whether or not a person sent a text message, which could be crucial when trying to stand up an alibi.
The Scotsman

From the weekend's papers:

Saturday

  • New faculty at Nottingham University fails to cure vet concerns. The Scotsman
  • A Government agency spent £140,000 of taxpayers' money to fund research into the history of pockets. The Independent

Sunday

  • Fury as St Andrews honours Muhammad Khatami a Hezbollah backer. The Sunday Times
  • Female university students turn to prostitution to pay tuition fees. The Sunday Times
  • British Museum documents reveal that staff fear deteriorating public behaviour is putting exhibits at risk. The Sunday Telegraph
  • Scientists at Glasgow University have been given funding to investigate if academic researchers are routinely biased about their own work. The Scotsman On Sunday

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