Today's news

March 26, 2007

Oxford setting extra tests for candidates
Sixth-formers face new entrance tests to get into Oxford University amid concerns that A levels fail to mark out the brightest candidates. Aptitude tests have been introduced in the most popular subjects to identify the best students from record numbers applying with top grades. The disclosure came as it emerged that almost one-in-six students applying to top universities now has to sit additional tests to secure a place. Head teachers criticised the move, which they said would pile more pressure on schools and students. But Oxford insisted that the reforms were inevitable because the A level no longer acted as an accurate barometer of ability.
The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent

Boat Race pressure piles on Cambridge
It was a bad weekend for the students in the fixtures between Oxford, Cambridge and two top British clubs, which saw decisive defeats for the university boats and asked serious questions about the ability of both crews to handle pressure. With the Boat Race less than two weeks away Oxford's three-length defeat by Leander could partly be explained by the severity of the conditions, but the Light Blues' abject performance against Molesey on Friday has left the strong favourites reeling.
The Guardian

Organic IS healthier, say food scientists
As the debate rages on about whether organically grown food is better for us than the "conventional'' produce we have become used to, a new study sides firmly with organic. Scientists found that some organic food is more healthy after tests on kiwi fruit grown by both methods. The American researchers discovered that organically grown kiwis had significantly higher levels of vitamin C and polyphenols - compounds associated with health benefits including reducing cholesterol, improving circulation and preventing cancer.
The Daily Telegraph

Seoul professor in cloned wolf claim
A former collaborator of the disgraced South Korean scientist, Dr Hwang Woo-Suk, claimed today to have succeeded in cloning wolves. The two wolves, named Snuwolf and Snuwolffy, were born October 18 and 26 2005, said Dr Lee Byeong-Chun, a veterinary professor at Seoul National University. DNA tests showed the two wolves - an endangered species - are clones, the university's office of research affairs said, adding the results would be published in the journal Cloning and Stem Cells .
The Guardian

Want to live 10 years longer? Eat isotopes
Tucking into a steak enhanced with "heavy isotopes" could soon add as much as 10 years to your life. Every chemical element comes in different forms, called isotopes. And scientists have for the first time shown that food enriched with isotopes whose atoms contain extra neutrons seems to slow down the process of ageing. In preliminary experiments the concept has already been demonstrated to extend the lifespans of worms by 10 per cent. The man behind the discovery, the Oxford University biochemist Mikhail Shchepinov, said: "What we are seeing is pretty amazing. But we expect to do better than that in the future."
The Daily Telegraph

Dung-eating mites throw light on Inca civilisation
Mites that eat llama dung are providing scientists with critical new clues to the rise and fall of the Inca empire and the civilisations that preceded it. The soil invertebrates are allowing researchers to trace the growth and decline of the peoples of the Andes several centuries before the Spanish Conquest in 1532 brought written records to the region for the first time. The abundance of the fossil mites is directly linked to the amount of llama dung that was deposited on the pastures around Lake Maracocha at particular times, and can thus be used as a proxy for estimating the size of the herds and pack trains that grazed there.
The Times

From the weekend's papers:


  • Student debt is becoming a bigger contributing factor to personal bankruptcy. The Scotsman


  • Universities could face legal challenges over plans to ask applicants if their parents have a degree. The Sunday Telegraph
  • Lecturers admit classes of 100 students is now common. The Sunday Times
  • Universities claim students are unaware of the financial help available to them. The Observer

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