Today's news

December 5, 2006

Last chance for Oxford reformers
Reformers at Oxford University were yesterday handed a lifeline for their plans to strip academics of overall control of the executive body. About 200 dons have signed a petition calling for the plans, which were voted down last week, to go to a postal vote of all 3,770 academics and administrative staff. The vote, expected to produce a result before Christmas, will be the last chance for John Hood, the vice-chancellor, to increase the influence of outsiders from business, politics and other fields. His supporters believe he is more likely to win a postal vote. But if he fails to do so he is likely to face pressure to resign.
The Financial Times, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian

Laura gets revenge on Oxford
Laura Spence, the talented schoolgirl whose rejection by Oxford caused a Government outcry over alleged elitism, is now studying medicine at Wolfson College, Cambridge. It is six years since Miss Spence, now 24, was turned down by Oxford. In the interim, she has gained a degree in biochemistry at Harvard where she was one of five women in 2003 to be awarded the status of an All-Ivy for her academic and sporting achievement. The student became a household name in 2000 when Gordon Brown used her case to launch a fierce attack on selection procedures at Oxford. In a speech he declared it "an absolute scandal" that Miss Spence, a pupil at a comprehensive school in the North East, had not been offered a place at Magdalen College.
The Daily Telegraph

University suspends Turkish professor
A university has suspended one of its professors for remarks he made about Turkey's revered founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, an official said yesterday. The suspension of Professor Atilla Yayla has brought into sharp focus the country's ambivalence toward freedom of speech even as it intensifies its campaign to join the European Union. Ankara's Gazi University suspended Yayla last week after the political scientist criticized Ataturk at a conference in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, an official at the state-run university said on condition of anonymity because civil servants are barred from speaking to reporters without prior authorization.
The Guardian

Exams in metal-lined rooms to stop cheats
Students should sit exams in metal-lined rooms to block mobile phone signals amid fears that technology is fuelling a "substantial" increase in cheating, a Government-backed study said yesterday. Thousands of children may be using phones to send text messages to friends for answers or to access the internet during tests. Others down-load data on to MP3 players smuggled into exam halls. Professor Jean Underwood, from Nottingham Trent University, who carried out the study, suggested that large universities should fingerprint students to stop friends taking exams for them. "Digital technologies have brought equity to cheating," she said. "Access is no longer for the knowing few but is there for the majority."
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian

World Cup rugby star to turn out for Oxford
When the Cambridge University rugby XV take the field for the annual varsity match against Oxford at Twickenham next Tuesday, one of those lining up against them may look a little familiar. Joe Roff - the World Cup-winning, record try-scoring, former Australian wing - is now qualified to pull on the famous dark blue jersey. The former international qualified for Oxford University Rugby Football Club when he signed up for a degree in politics, philosophy and economics. The 36-year-old, who won 76 caps, continued to play professionally until last year and is now relishing the chance of playing among amateur student players whose average age is 10 years younger than him.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times

New facilities for students in £50m university revamp
A university campus is set to undergo a £50 million facelift as part of ambitious plans to improve facilities for students and staff. New sports facilities are among the improvements proposed for Napier University's Sighthill campus after the current building is demolished next May. Construction work on the new complex in the west of Edinburgh is expected to begin in September, with completion pencilled in for August 2010. The announcement comes two years after the completion of the £25 million redevelopment of the university's Craiglockhart campus. Officials will announce full details of the plans for Sighthill next week.
The Scotsman

Graduates' debts average double the 1999 figure
Scots students are leaving university with twice as much debt as they did when the Scottish Parliament was set up, according to the latest figures. A written parliamentary answer by Nicol Stephen, the lifelong learning minister, has revealed that students who graduated this year had an average debt of £5,737, compared to £2,863 in 1999. The figures also showed that nearly 31,000 graduates owe at least £10,000, with 240 at least £25,000 in the red. The figures came in response to a question by Maureen Watt, an SNP MSP.
The Scotsman

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