Today's news

December 18, 2006

Oxford chief moves to quash speculation
John Hood, the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, has moved to quash speculation that he will be forced to resign if his controversial reform plans are thrown out by academics next week. His strategy, to bring in outsiders to help run the famous institution, suffered a setback last month when a meeting of Congregation, the "dons' parliament", rejected Dr Hood's "white paper" by 730 votes to 456. The result sparked behind-the-scenes discussions by senior members of the Oxford establishment to find a replacement vice-chancellor from their own ranks. This week, in a letter to the university's 3,700 academics and staff who are casting their votes in a decisive postal ballot, Dr Hood indicated he had no plans to step down.
The Financial Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Dec 15)

Iranian students hide in fear for lives
Iranian student activists who staged an angry protest against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week have gone into hiding in fear for their lives after his supporters threatened them with revenge. One student fled after being photographed holding a banner reading, "Fascist president, the polytechnic is not for you", during Mr Ahmadinejad's visit to Tehran's Amir Kabir University. At least three others have gone underground after being seen burning his picture. Vigilantes from the militant Ansar-e Hezbollah group have been searching for them.
The Guardian

Third of graduates rue degree choice, says study
A third of university graduates believe they chose the wrong degree, with many wishing they had chosen a scientific, technical or business-based course, according to a study published today. But graduates who started work in 2000 have since "enjoyed rapid improvement in both real and relative earnings, seeing their salary increase by an average 55 per cent", says the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which conducted the survey. It says house price inflation has made it difficult for many graduates to get a foot on the property ladder, in spite of rising incomes. The failure of many graduates to save for their future also means they will be unlikely to fulfil their wish to retire early, says the CIPD.
The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Scotsman

Art-history degree sheds 'chattering class' status
It may have once been known as the cocktail-party degree of the upper classes, but history of art is now one of the handful of subjects where state-school pupils have a higher success rate in gaining places at Oxford University than the privately educated. Alongside biochemistry, computer science and some engineering degrees, a higher proportion of state-educated applicants were admitted to the university to study history of art over the past three years than applicants from independent schools, according to newly released figures. However, while record numbers of school-leavers are applying to study at Oxford, just 47 per cent of undergraduates admitted were from sixth-form colleges, grammar schools and comprehensives.
The Times

Cloning benefits oversold, says stem-cell scientist
The medical promise of therapeutic cloning has been oversold and its unreasonably high profile risks turning the public against more promising aspects of stem-cell research, according to one of Britain’s most respected experts in the field. Cloning research “clearly upsets the general public” yet it has limited potential for treating disease and adds little to scientific understanding of human biology, according to Austin Smith of the University of Cambridge. While it is in theory possible that cloned embryonic stem cells could be used to create patient-matched tissue for treating disease, significant technical barriers mean that this goal may never be realised in practice, he said.
The Times

From the weekend's papers:

Saturday

  • Open University's TV lectures are history. The Scotsman

Sunday

  • Poorer pupils still fail to get into Oxbridge. The Sunday Times
  • Schools to ‘twin’ with universities. The Sunday Times
  • Ahmadinejad stifles student dissent with 'star rating' system. The Daily Telegraph

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