Today's news

November 29, 2006

Oxford dons reject reform plan in blow for vice-chancellor
Oxford University reformist vice-chancellor was dealt a serious blow yesterday as a congregation of dons rejected a package of administrative reforms that would have made the university function more like a modern corporation. After a three-hour debate in the Sheldonian Theatre, 730 members of the "dons’ parliament" voted against implementing the white paper on university governance championed by John Hood, while 456 voted in favour. The paper included reforms that would have taken some administrative powers out of the hands of academics, where they have rested for 900 years, and shared them with outsiders appointed to the council, the central decision-making body for academic policy and university strategy.
The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent

Universities told to target poor areas
Universities must target more schools in poor areas to raise the number of working-class children in higher education. In spite of spending hundreds of millions of pounds each year on widening access, too many are falling through the net, according to Bill Rammell, the Minister for Higher Education. The initiative comes in the wake of a 7.4 per cent drop in the number of applications from less well-off sixth-formers, compared with a 4.5 per cent drop for all English undergraduates. Despite a slight rise overall since 1998, ministers are concerned that not enough is being done to raise aspirations among England’s most disadvantaged young people. In recent years, all universities have actively urged working-class pupils and ethnic minorities to enter, through the use of summer schools, campus visits and by developing partnerships with local schools and colleges.
The Times

Funding body to tackle drop-out level
Funding officials are planning to get tough with universities and colleges with high student drop-out rates. The Scottish Funding Council, which is responsible for distributing public funds to the higher and further education sector, said yesterday that it would seek yearly updates from institutions whose retention rates were poor. Figures released earlier this year revealed universities and colleges north of the Border have the highest drop-out rates in the UK. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 12 per cent of Scots students left university after their first year, compared with the UK average of 9.5 per cent.
The Scotsman

OU offers study in a stocking with Christmas gift vouchers
The Open University is selling gift vouchers in the hope that people can interest their hard-to-buy-for relatives in higher education. More than 35 years after the pioneering university took its first distance-learning students and put television to educational use, it is adapting an idea from the high street to lure new entrants to its multimedia mix of teaching and learning. Vouchers ranging from £10 to £135 can be used as full or part-payment for all the OU's 580 part-time courses. These cost from just under £100 for some taster courses, to around £3,700 for a full honours degree taken over up to six years.
The Guardian

Students unite for World Aids Day activities
Students at Edinburgh University are staging a week of activities in the run-up to World Aids Day on Friday. Edinburgh University Students Association and student societies, including Stop Aids, Oxvol, ESCA, People and Planet, and Amnesty International, are organising discussions, film screenings and concerts. All profits will go to the Waverley Care Trust, the leading Aids charity in Scotland. The week will close with the launch of 200 red balloons accompanied by live drumming on Friday. Those taking part will be dressed in red to form a giant human Aids ribbon to show support for HIV carriers.
The Scotsman

Prehistoric fish had bite stronger than a T.rex
It swam in a primordial ocean 400 million years ago and could deliver a more powerful bite than any living fish, including the biggest sharks of today. Scientists have discovered that the vice-like grip of its jaws enabled Dunkleosteus terrelli to exert a force of 11,000 lb on its prey, enough to bite the toughest into two. The extinct creature, which grew 33ft long and weighed up to four tons, was armed with a formidable array of bladed teeth that exerted a pressure of 80,000 lb per square inch at the tip of its fangs.
The Independent, The Times

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