Today's news

April 2, 2007

University policies that filter out middle classes
Six of the 20-strong Russell Group of leading research universities have written policies discriminating against middle-class students to boost recruitment from poor areas, documents showed yesterday. Liverpool, LSE, Newcastle and Warwick have followed the lead of Bristol and Nottingham, which have operated schemes encouraging tutors to give lower offers to working-class applicants for the past six years. Durham, which has not joined the Russell Group, has collated information about school and home backgrounds on "contextual sheets" since 2002.
The Daily Telegraph

Baccalaureate ‘overvalued’ against A level
Complaints about the International Baccalaureate and vocational qualifications have prompted a fundamental review of the points system that values all sixth-form qualifications. With the introduction of specialised diplomas, the A* grade at A level and the rival PreU qualification next year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service has concluded that the system of weighting final qualifications is no longer fit for purpose. By 2010, the grades of sixth-formers are expected to be measured according to a new tariff, which will judge a student’s “knowledge, attitudes and skills” and intends to compare more fairly A levels with group awards such as the International Baccalaureate.
The Times

Harvard chemist crowned puzzle champion
A molecular chemist from Harvard has been crowned the new Su Doku world champion. Thomas Snyder, , runner-up in the first world championships last year, left spectators gasping at his solving speed. Mr Snyder, whose day job involves investigating the sub straights of DNA molecules, put his success down to his ability to scan a puzzle as a whole and visualise which cells to fill in first. He started solving puzzles aged four and always carries a selection to solve in spare moments.
The Times

Cambridge pumping to victory amid turmoil on the Thames
The Head of the River race was abandoned in scenes of mayhem after only 29 of the first 45 crews finished. Horrendous conditions on the Thames between Chiswick and Putney caused many boats to sink and pitched up to a hundred rowers into a cold river. Saturday's race was won by Cambridge University 4 seconds ahead of Leander but many doubted the wisdom of the organisers in letting the race go ahead at all.
The Guardian

Harry casts a spell on students
He has been accused of promoting devil-worship and denounced for trivialising some of Britain's most ancient traditions. But to millions of young readers, he is simply the boy wizard whose fate they are eager to discover when JK Rowling's final Harry Potter novel hits the shelves this summer. Now Edinburgh University is launching a course on The Magic of Harry Potter, which explores the international phenomena that the Edinburgh writer's creation has become.
The Scotsman

Scientists change one blood group into another
Scientists have developed a simple method of converting blood from one group to another. The breakthrough could potentially mean the end of blood shortages by boosting supplies of group O negative blood, which can be given to anyone. Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology , an international team of researchers described how they converted blood from group A, B or AB to group O. The process uses bacterial enzymes to cut sugar molecules from the surface of red blood cells.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent

Fossil find whales surface in Tuscany
Tuscany's fertile sun-baked soil has been producing excellent red wines and succulent tomatoes for centuries, but has now gone one further, yielding two complete prehistoric whale skeletons in little more than a week. The 10-metre fossils, the biggest found in Italy, date from four to five million years ago when the region sat on the sea bed. "This is a spectacular find," said Elisabetta Cioppi, a palaeontologist at the University of Florence, of the most recent discovery of a whale fossil just 50cm below ground level in a wheat field near Orciano Pisano.
The Guardian

From the weekend's papers:



  • Indian outsourcing giant is to launch its first recruitment drive on university campuses in Britain. The Sunday Telegraph
  • Scottish students are plotting a Jamie Oliver-style revolution in their college canteens. The Scotsman

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