Today's news

November 9, 2006

Universities to be given £75m to keep science departments open
Universities in England are to get more funds to teach expensive science subjects from next year, in a £75 million initiative to stave off more closures of chemistry and physics departments. As well as physics and chemistry courses, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, wants to protect chemical, mineral and materials engineering, regarded as similarly vital to the economy, even if they attract relatively few students. There is already a big push in schools to interest teenagers in strategically important sciences. Nearly 70 science departments closed between 1999 and 2005 - physics at Reading is next in the firing line - but nearly 30 opened in the same period, and funders are anxious for some stability.
The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Nov 9)

Students protest as Bristol cuts tuition to two hours a week
Students at one of Britain's most sought-after universities are demanding more value for money after their tuition was reduced to two hours a week. History undergraduates at Bristol say they thought they were paying fees to be educated by renowned academics, not to receive "library membership and a reading list". The students are in their final year and believed they would get six hours of lectures and seminars after between seven and nine in the first two years of their honours degree course. Instead they will have one group session lasting two hours each week plus an optional one-hour meeting with a tutor to discuss their research. They have been promised an extra hour in the second half of the year.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times

International students pay high price for UK study, figures show
Performing arts institutions charge some of the highest fees for international students coming to study in the UK, while fees at Oxford, Cambridge or Imperial College London top £16,000 a year for some courses, new figures show. Postgraduate international students are charged £28,000 at the London Business School, and a postgraduate course costs £20,700 a year at the Royal College of Art. The figures show that the fees international students are charged to study undergraduate degrees in the UK vary from £6,700 at the University of East Anglia, to £16,690 at the Royal Veterinary College.
The Guardian

Cambridge's Naked Scientist wins communication prize
The University of Cambridge's Naked Scientist has been rewarded for his work in bringing science to a wider audience. Christopher Smith, from the university's department of pathology, will next week be presented with the Biosciences Federation's science communication award, worth £1,000, in recognition of his Naked Scientist BBC radio series and website. Dr Smith, 31, who works as a clinical virologist at the city's Addenbrookes hospital, won praise from the award panel for the "breadth and importance of the scientific issues" he discusses on the radio programme and in other areas of the media, as well as for the "innovative quality" of his work, which helped him stand out from the other candidates.
The Guardian

Blind mice treated with stem cells regain sight
British scientists have managed to make blind mice see, a breakthrough that could open the way to treating millions of people who lose their sight. A team successfully transplanted retinal cells into mice that were blind as a result of a genetic defect, the effects of which are very similar to the human disease retinitis pigmentosa. The treated mice regained some vision, and the team responsible showed that the transplanted cells integrated into the retina and formed new photoreceptors, the cells that are sensitive to light. The loss of photoreceptors underlies many causes of blindness in human beings, from macular degeneration to diabetes.
The Times, The Independent, Nature

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