Today's news

January 12, 2007

Alarm as students achieve record top degrees
Two out of three university students graduated with a top degree last year, according to figures certain to raise fresh concerns that standards are in decline. The Higher Education Statistics Agency revealed that a record 172,000 students (60 per cent) gained a first or upper-second class degree last summer – 6,700 more than in the previous year. Of those awarded a top degree, 34,800 gained a first and 137,200 an upper-second. The figures represent a rise of one per cent on 2005 and numbers have continued to climb over the last decade. In 1996, only 48 per cent of students left university with a top degree. Of those, seven per cent were awarded a first against 12 per cent in 2006.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Jan 12)

Graduate starting salaries to reach record levels
Graduates will earn record starting salaries when they leave university this summer but face unprecedented competition for the best jobs, research has revealed. Average starting salaries are likely to reach £25,500 at firms listed in the UK Top 100 Graduate Employers survey - up £1,700 on last year's average. However, High Fliers Research, which compiled the figures, warned there would be more than 50 graduates applying for each vacancy at many of these leading firms. Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research, said final-year students faced "a fiercely competitive environment" in their hunt for top jobs.
The Guardian, The Financial Times

Scots stem cell centre gives hope to millions hit by disease
Scotland is set to lead the world in ground-breaking stem-cell research with the creation of a dedicated £59 million centre. The new Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine will be the only one of its kind in Europe or the United States and is expected to create thousands of jobs over the coming years. Scientists hope discoveries made at the unit, on the site of the Centre for Biomedical Research next to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, will help millions of people with serious illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. Yesterday Jack McConnell, the First Minister, joined Professor Ian Wilmut, who led the team that created Dolly the Sheep, to discuss the research.
The Scotsman

Watchdog refuses to allow hybrid embryos
British scientists were yesterday denied permission to create controversial human-animal hybrid embryos until doubts over the ethics and scientific value of the research are addressed. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said it was deferring a decision on whether to grant licences to teams from King's College London and Newcastle University until a wide-ranging consultation on the issue concluded in the autumn. Scientists claim that stem cells from hybrid embryos will be vital to unravel the mysteries of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and motor neurone diseases, and will pave the way for techniques capable of transforming skin cells from an adult into different tissues and organs.
The Guardian

Scientists recreate (less ugly) face of Dante
Dante Alighieri did not, after all, have bulging eyes or a pointed chin - but his enormous nose was true to life, according to scientists who have created a replica of the poet's face by measuring the remains of his skull. The researchers at the University of Bologna have pieced together the "true face" of Florence's favourite son and discovered that it was very different from the portraits of him by the artists Botticelli, Raphael and Giotto. Giovanni Boccaccio, the Italian author who was eight years old when Dante died in 1321, described the poet as having "a long face, an aquiline nose, eyes that are large rather than small, a great jaw, and a lower lip that was larger than the upper".
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Scotsman

Ivory carving pushes back date of modern man's venture into Europe
An ivory carving appearing to show the head of a human being marks Modern Man’s first attempt at figurative art, archaeologists believe. The carving was found with primitive tools and two human teeth at a site dating back further than any other settlement found in Europe. It is forcing scientists to reassess the date at which Modern Man occupied Europe after leaving Africa, and the routes that were taken. The settlement is thought to be about 45,000 years old. It is much farther north than any other similar site.
The Times, New Scientist

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