Today's news

February 8, 2007

Cuts creating science and languages 'blackspots'
Some UK universities cannot offer students courses in key subject areas such as core sciences and modern languages, according to two reports released today by the lecturers' union. The reports, Degrees of Decline and Losing Our Tongues, catalogue the decline in science and modern languages courses that has led to regional higher education blackspots where there are few or no such courses available, according to the University and College Union. The UCU said limited choice would force many students to abandon their preferred university option, especially those who could not afford to move far from home. Degrees of Decline reveals that 10 per cent of UK science and maths courses have been axed in the last decade. There are now just 224 single honours BSc courses in maths and science offered in the UK, according to the UCU.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (February 8)

Union reveals cost of London Met row
A long-running dispute at London Metropolitan University has cost the taxpayer £250,000, a union leader said today. The contracts dispute, which has festered since the institution was created by the merger of London Guildhall University and the University of North London in 2002, ended in legal victory for members of the University and College Union. But this has not brought peace - the university is refusing to recognise the union, which was formed last year when Natfhe, representing academic staff at London Met, merged with the Association of University Teachers.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (February 8)

New students 'should speak second language'
Students should be able to speak a foreign language as a requirement for university entry, the British Academy has said in a submission on the decline of modern languages. The British Academy, warns in its response to Lord Dearing's interim report on language policy that the decline in language study at secondary school was harming the UK. The submission says that a decline in the number of GCSE language pupils reduces the number of A-level and degree students, which in turn depletes the supply of language teachers for primary and secondary schools, and also of linguistically competent researchers in all subject areas.
The Guardian

Italian jobs cause ruction
Hundreds of researchers who moved to Italy in the belief they had been promised permanent careers are now finding themselves without a job. And confusion has erupted as the country's research ministry has suspended one appointment made through the same scheme. The Brain Gain programme was established in 2001 to attract external talent - including both foreigners and Italians who had left the country - into the stagnating Italian research system. The idea was that if the scientists worked for a few years in Italy they would be well placed to compete for new positions, which many of the 466 scientists who came to the country saw as a promise of a job.

China's terracotta army to invade British Museum
When the First Emperor of China was buried, ceramic bureaucrats and acrobats were laid alongside him to cope with paperwork and keep him entertained in the afterlife. The new finds are included in the biggest exhibition of treasures ever lent overseas from the emperor's burial site in Xian, which will open at the British Museum this September. Examples of the famous terracotta warriors, which have been hailed as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, will also go on show. The central Reading Room will be transformed at a cost of around £1m into a temporary gallery to cope with the thousands expected for what will be the largest show the museum has ever staged.
The Independent, The Times

Professor outrages Jews with book claim
A Jewish academic has shocked Italy by stating that Jews murdered Christians during the Middle Ages so that their blood could be used in ritualistic ceremonies. The details were revealed in yesterday's Corriere Della Sera newspaper which published extracts of the book by Professor Ariel Toaff, Easter of Blood . Last night his claims were denied by leading Jewish figures including his father Elio, once chief rabbi of Rome. In the book, Professor Toaff describes the multilation and crucification of a two-year-old boy to recreate Christ's execution at Pesach, the Jewish Easter.
The Daily Telegraph

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