Today's news

March 30, 2007

Academics call time on 'illiterate' students
Lecturers at some of the new universities are calling for a public debate on standards because they say functionally illiterate students are being passed so they do not drop out of courses. The lack of writing skills and sloppy punctuation and spelling will render students unemployable in graduate jobs despite their degrees, they say. Among the written howlers cited from students at both new and old universities are the cringe-making "language is a mean's of self expresun"; the dreadful "garunteed" for "guaranteed"; and the utterly impenetrable "case in point to me alone but not all". The Times Higher Education Supplement highlighted other complaints yesterday and said the time was right "for an honest and open debate on the qualities we expect from those entering university".
The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail

Lecturers ask for same pay as teachers
Lecturers at further education colleges are seeking an above inflation pay rise this year as part of a claim for parity with teachers' salary scales. Unions representing the 43,000 lecturers in FE colleges want to close the 6.3 per cent gap in pay they say exists when their salaries are compared with teachers. Lecturers and support staff in England said they wanted employers to come up with a "significant" pay increase for 2007-08. They claim official figures put the average pay of a schoolteacher at £653 a week compared with £612 for a college lecturer - a difference of £41.
The Guardian

Oxford high-flier unlawfully killed by fumes
A former president of the Oxford union who died on a gap year in Lebanon was unlawfully killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, a coroner ruled yesterday. Edward Tomlinson, who had ambitions to become an MP, died five weeks after arriving in Beirut to study Arabic. It had been thought his death was by natural causes but his inquest heard he was killed by a faulty water heater in his hotel room. He had 53 per cent carboxyhaemoglobin saturation in his body, similar to that of a fire victim or someone exposed to car fumes. The normal level of saturation is between two and 10 per cent.
The Daily Telegraph

Web users read more of a story, study finds
People looking at news websites spend longer reading stories than those reading print newspapers, according to research. A laboratory study of 600 people found that online readers on average got through three quarters of each story they chose to read. When presented with identical stories in a broadsheet newspaper, readers managed just 62 per cent of the text, while readers of print tabloids gave up after reading 57 per cent, according to the Poynter Institute in America. The study challenges conventional wisdom that online readers lack the attention span of their print counterparts.
The Daily Telegraph

New 'selfish' gene aids plan for safe mosquito
A class of selfish genes that cause the death of all offspring that do not inherit them could be used to help the spread of genetically modified mosquitoes that are resistant to malaria, scientists say. The release of genetically modified mosquitoes that cannot pass malaria to people has been proposed as a new approach to controlling the disease, which kills up to 2.7 million people each year, but the strategy relies on the insects replacing their normal cousins in the wild. Research in the US suggests that the chances could be improved by tying malaria resistance genes to another set of genes that kill offspring that do not inherit them.
The Times

Fish oil ‘reduces the risk of heart attack’
Fish oil appears to add an extra benefit against heart attack, above that given by statins, research in Japan has shown. The addition of the fish oil supplement, that contains eicosapentaenoic acid, to the daily diet of more than 9,000 older people with elevated cholesterol reduced the risk of a heart attack by 19 per cent. The patients were already taking statin drugs to lower their cholesterol, and continued to do so. The EPA had no effect on the risk of sudden death from heart attack or of dying from coronary heart disease. The authors believe that this is because the Japanese already eat a lot of fish, so are above the threshold where extra EPA reduces the risk of dying.
The Times

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