Today's news

February 1, 2007

Union publishes guidance to end fixed-term contracts
The University and College Union today launched a help kit for academic staff on fixed-term or hourly-paid contracts as part of its campaign to secure better terms and conditions for 150,000 workers. UCU said employment legislation, which came into force last summer, means some non-permanent employees now have the right to full contracts. However, the union said there was still repeated use of fixed-term contracts for academic staff. The help kit includes information on how fixed-term staff can approach their university to move to full contracts, including sample letters and a "know your rights" checklist.
The Guardian

Students need clear online finance info, universities told
University websites that prioritise student finance and use simple language rather than jargon were praised for their good practice in a new Office for Fair Access report out today. The good practice guidance for universities and colleges was compiled following a small research study commissioned by Offa and carried out by Ipsos MORI in autumn last year. The study looked at the financial information needs, expectations and experiences of prospective students and the extent to which they felt that financial information was clear and accessible on institutions' websites.
The Guardian

Half of apprentices fail to finish course
Just over half of young people on apprenticeships in England finish the course, according to official government figures published yesterday. The number enrolling on apprenticeships has ballooned since 1997, reflecting the government's drive to push more children into higher education or training after leaving school. But according to statistics published by the Department for Education and Skills, just 53 per cent of all apprenticeships in England in 2006 resulted in a qualification.
The Daily Telegraph

Mad cow disease reversed in mice
Scientists have reversed the early symptoms of "mad cow disease" in mice, revealing what drugs will have to achieve if they are to treat a so far incurable disease. The Medical Research Council team managed to rid the rodents of memory and behavioural problems associated with the cattle disease BSE, its human equivalent, variant CJD and other prion diseases. Such "spongiform encephalopathy" diseases are associated with rogue proteins - prions - in the brain, which change shape, creating holes and turning it "spongy".
The Daily Telegraph

Air pollution raises risk of heart disease in women, says study
Air pollution may be causing far more deaths from heart attacks than has been recognised - at least in women. One of the largest studies of its kind has found that women breathing polluted city air were at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. The study involved almost 66,000 women aged between 50 and 79 who were monitored for nine years as part of the Women's Health Initiative, a major US investigation into the causes of heart disease in women. The results, in The New England Journal of Medicine , suggest that - for older women at least - fine particulates are far more hazardous than was thought.
The Independent

Scientists build nanomachine envisioned 150 yrs ago
Nearly 150 years ago it was no more than a concept by a visionary scientist, but researchers have now created a minuscule motor that could lead to the creation of microscopic nanomachines. Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell first imagined an atom-size device dubbed Maxwell's Demon in 1867. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have made it a reality. "We have a new motor mechanism for a nanomachine," said David Leigh, a professor of chemistry at the University. A nanomachine is an incredibly tiny device whose parts consist of single molecules. Nature uses nanomachines for everything from photosynthesis to moving muscles in the body and transferring information through cells.
The Scotsman

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