Today's news

March 20, 2007

University of Manchester to axe 400 staff
Four hundred jobs are to go at the University of Manchester to clear a £30 million debt, it has emerged. The university admitted that it is looking to make voluntary redundancies to offset the debt, which was created by the merger between the Victoria Manchester University and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in 2004. There are no plans for compulsory job cuts. But the promise has failed to reassure the University and College Union, which is opposed to any jobs disappearing and has accused the university of mismanagement. David Beale, from the Manchester branch of the union, said: "We do not accept these redundancies and the vice-chancellor has yet to make a financial case for them."
The Guardian

Probe into student bullying of staff
An academic has launched a new survey to find out how many university staff, including cleaners, administrative clerks and academics, have been at the receiving end of student bad behaviour. Deborah Lee, senior sociology lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, wants to find out the degree of what she sees as hidden bullying in the higher education sector by students. She is collecting stories from anybody working in a university who has been the victim of "insensitive or uncivil behaviour" from students as part of her research, from minor issues to major ones including malicious complaints, harassment, or physical or sexual assault.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (March 16)

£3.6m super computer is booted up
A new £3.6 million super computer used to design drugs and plan military defence strategies has been launched by Edinburgh University. Maxwell is more powerful than similar models built previously, but runs on a tenth of the energy and has been tipped to be the first of a new wave of energy efficient super computers. Maxwell has the capability to conduct massive calculations which will also have benefits for companies and researchers in the financial, medical and business sectors. Mark Parsons, commercial director of EPCC, the university's super computing centre that built Maxwell, said: "Maxwell represents a major opportunity for Scotland in this exciting technology space."
The Scotsman

GM mosquito may combat malaria
Plans to fight malaria with the help of genetically engineered mosquitoes receive a boost today, increasing the chance that GM insects could one day be used to combat many serious diseases. One strategy to control malaria, which kills three million people annually, involves introducing GM mosquitoes resistant to the malaria parasite, into natural mosquito populations. But the catch has been that, for the GM mosquitoes to successfully replace natural mosquitoes, they must produce more offspring. Earlier work suggested that GM insects are weaker than wild counterparts. But today, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , an American team has found that the GM mosquito can indeed out-compete natural mosquitoes.
The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times

Scientists stumped by 100m years of chastity
Creatures that have abstained from sex for up to 100 million years are giving evolutionary scientists a headache. Sex is not just important for reproduction - it helps scramble genes much more quickly than random DNA mutations and helps new species to evolve and emerge as the environment changes. But there is one ugly fact in the way of this beautiful theory: the bdelloid rotifers, a strange group of translucent organisms that abandoned sex long ago, a state of affairs once denounced as an “evolutionary scandal” by the late and great biologist John Maynard Smith.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times

Why students want to go to university.
The Independent

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