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The UCL Media Relations team is the university’s central press office.


We connect journalists to expert academics and promote UCL research and teaching throughout the global media.


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Opinion

Conservative education plans are poetic - but are they practical?

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Chris Husbands

Each year, the Queen’s speech marks the point where the poetry of aspiration gets translated into the hard slog of legislation and implementation. The Conservative manifesto for education was certainly bold and aspirational, writes Professor Chris Husbands (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.

Against the Grain: Central planners don’t get incentives – but markets can be faulty too

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Ormerod

Perhaps the most enjoyable outcome of the General Election is the abuse now being heaped on the metropolitan liberal elite from many quarters. Theirs is truly a difficult mindset to comprehend, based as it is on an unshakeable belief in their own omniscience, writes Dr Paul Ormerod (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in City AM.

The jailed opposition leader who might hold the key to Venezuela’s future

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Leopoldo López, Venezuela’s most prominent opposition leader, resurfaced on May 23 after a year locked away in a military prison. In a four-minute video, he announced that he was going on hunger strike, and called on Venezuelans to renew their peaceful anti-government protests, writes Dr Marco Aponte-Moreno and Lance Lattig (both UCL Management Science & Innovation) in The Conversation.

Discovered: stone tools that go back beyond earliest humans

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Matt Pope

Archaeologists have discovered stone artefacts in Kenya dating back to 3.3m years ago – making them the oldest stone tools yet discovered. The finding pushes back the record of stone tools by 700,000 years. While the tools predate the earliest known representative of our own genus, Homo, it is not yet possible to pin down exactly which species created the tools, writes Dr Matt Pope (UCL Institute of Archaeology) in The Conversation.

Wider appeal isn’t what a dying Labour should worry about – it’s core voters

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Ormerod

Could Labour disappear? The party has been a prominent feature of British politics for a century, but could we now see it just vanish? There is a clear historical precedent, writes Dr Paul Ormerod (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in City AM.

Plagiarism is a mortal sin and last taboo – or is it?

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Jo Wolff

JD Salinger, at the start of his short story Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, quotes an ancient Chinese tale about the search for a superlative new horse for Duke Mu of Chin. Chiu-fang Kao is commissioned for the job and recommends a wonderful black stallion, but describes it as a dun mare. Naturally, the duke questions his expertise, but Chiu-fang Kao’s patron replies “Has he really got as far as that? … In making sure of the essentials he forgets the homely details", writes Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy) in the Guardian.

Where will nuclear power plants of the future be built?

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Paul Dorfman

Nuclear power has had a makeover. What was once seen as a futuristic source of limitless energy has been reframed as a response to global warming, an ideal solution for countries looking for a continuous source of low-carbon power. But who are these countries, asks Dr Paul Dorfman (UCL Energy Institute) in The Conversation.

Why our ancestors were more gender equal than us

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quad

It is often believed that hierarchical and sometimes oppressive social structures like the patriarchy are somehow natural – a reflection of the law of the jungle. But the social structure of today’s hunter gatherers suggests that our ancestors were in fact highly egalitarian, even when it came to gender. Their secret? Not living with many relatives, say Dr Lucio Vinicius and Dr Andrea Migliano (both UCL Anthropology) in The Conversation.

What rats in a maze can teach us about our sense of direction

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London’s taxi drivers have to pass an exam in which they are asked to name the shortest route between any two places within six miles of Charing Cross – an area with more than 60,000 roads. We know from brain scans that learning “the knowledge” – as the drivers call it - increases the size of their hippocampi, the part of the brain crucial to spatial memory, write Francis Carpenter and Dr Caswell Barry (both UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) in The Conversation.

Prince Charles’s letters reveal the extent of his lobbying for dangerous ‘alternative medicine’

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Prof-David-Colquhoun

The age of enlightenment was a beautiful thing. People cast aside dogma and authority. They started to think for themselves. Natural science flourished. Understanding of the natural world increased. The hegemony of religion slowly declined. Eventually real universities were created and real democracy developed. The modern world was born, writes Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) in the Spectator.

Bad marks for Sweden’s muddled teacher training in OECD report on school system

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Sweden has experienced a dramatic decline in the international ranking of its schools. Swedish 15-year-olds' performance on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development-led Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has declined from near the average in 2000 to significantly below average in 2012, writes Dr Susanne Wiborg (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.

This British bill of rights could end the UK

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Philippe Sands

David Cameron has given Michael Gove the task of scrapping the Human Rights Act and curtailing the role of the European court of human rights. Gove, the new justice secretary, is probably unaware of how poisonous are the contents of the chalice passed into his hands. And Cameron wants a draft bill within the first 100 days of his new government, writes Professor Philippe Sands (UCL Laws) in the Guardian.

The problem with fragmented insurgencies

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United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura recently announced that his schedule for the U.N.-backed “peace consultations” in Geneva includes over 40 one-on-one meetings representing an array of external states, non-jihadist armed factions, opposition groups and civil society actors with a stake in the Syrian conflict, writes Dr Kristin Bakke (UCL Political Science) in the Washington Post.

Bangladesh blogger killings have roots in independence struggle

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Ashraf Hoque

Ananta Bijoy Das, who was murdered in a brutal roadside machete attack in north-east Bangladesh, is the third secularist blogger to be killed by Islamist extremists since February 2015. But this is a less recent development than it seems. Militant attacks on so-called “atheists” have been accelerated in Bangladesh since 2013, writes Dr Ashraf Hoque (UCL Anthropology) in The Conversation.

UK elects most diverse parliament ever but it’s still not representative

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Ahead of the 2015 election, broadcaster Jeremy Paxman argued that voters were being given a choice “between one man who was at primary school with Boris Johnson and one man who was at secondary school with him – both of whom did PPE at Oxford”, writes Dr Jennifer Hudson (UCL Constitution Unit) in The Conversation.

Recidivist nationalism is outdated in a union of shared resources and pooled sovereignty

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Privately, Labour insiders were hopeful of retaining more than 10 seats in Scotland. The enormous swing to the SNP wouldn't be uniform. Incumbency and "shy Unionist" tactical voters would save some of their best people. In the event, the roaring Scottish lion blew them all away, writes Dr Michael Collins (UCL History) in The Herald Scotland.

Schools haven’t always been the safe havens of today’s ‘mini welfare states’

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“Please, sir, I want some more,” pleaded Oliver Twist in the fictional workhouse depicted in the 1837 novel by Charles Dickens. The infamous response of Mr Bumble to Oliver’s modest request for another plate of gruel has passed into folklore. This is the heritage of the Victorian approach to welfare – a dangerous place for children to grow up in, writes Professor Gary McCulloch (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.

Polling errors and the financial crisis: Why groupthink is to blame for both

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Ormerod

The election is done and dusted, but many interesting questions remain. Was there a swing to the Conservatives at the very last minute, or was it indeed possible to foresee the victory in advance? Snippets are emerging which suggest that the electorate had made up their minds well before polling day, says Dr Paul Ormerod (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in City AM.

Universities are stuck in a rut – entrepreneurial spirit could get them out

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Michael Stewart

Universities are deadly conservative. We don’t want to be. We say we’re not. But we are. Our traditionalism shows through in the way we provide an undergraduate education which has remained largely unchanged over the past 50 years, writes Professor Michael Stewart (UCL Anthropology) in The Conversation.

Conservative victory means England’s school system will look like few others in the world

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Chris Husbands

No-one foresaw the scale of the Conservative victory – it exceeded even the limits of the party’s own expectations. Now, a majority Conservative government comes to power – unexpectedly and with sufficient lead over a divided and, for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, demoralised opposition. What will this newly confident government mean for education in general and schools in particular, asks Professor Chris Husbands (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.

Captain Kidd’s ‘treasure’ found in Indian Ocean – but this is no haul in pirating terms

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Neil Rennie

Treasure belonging to the notorious pirate Captain Kidd has been found in Madagascar, according to the BBC and other news sources. So Captain Kidd – leading villain of many stories and films, such as Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd – is back in the news. But Kidd actually had a real existence – and sailed the narrow line between legality and piracy in the golden age of piracy, writes Professor Neil Rennie (UCL English Language & Literature) in The Conversation.

English is evolving as fast as a fruit fly — so TGFG

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John Sutherland

Google Translate is one of the great things the internet has given us, enabling us to crisscross into anything from Afrikaans to Zulu. I know only one phrase in Afrikaans, which is the translation of “Hamlet, I am your father’s ghost.” It comes out as “Omlet, ek is de papa spook”. In Zulu, you will find it translated as “Omlet, NgiyiNdodana ghost daddy”. I think “ghost daddy” really works, though I’m not sure how Shakespeare’s doing out there in the kraals, writes Professor John Sutherland (UCL English Language & Literature) in the Times (£).

Can agroecology save us from 'scorched-earth' agriculture?

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Henrietta Moore

Industrial agriculture has become a prime driver of many of the world's most serious problems, the loss of wild and farmed biodiversity, huge climate-changing emissions, and the entrapment of small farmers in ever-deepening cycles of poverty. But there is a solution: the widespread adoption of agroecological farming, writes Professor Henrietta Moore (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) in The Ecologist.

The answer to tackling superbugs could be … more superbugs

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Hard-to-kill bacteria or “superbugs” have become a major problem for hospitals. Between 5% and 12% of hospital patients in the EU are thought to acquire an infection during their stay, with many caused by bacteria such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff) that are resistant to antibiotics, writes Dr Adam Roberts (UCL Microbial Diseases) in The Conversation.

Gaming improves your brain power – reality or hype?

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Brad Love

There has been excitement among researchers in recent years that playing certain video and computer games may strengthen core components of cognition, helping us to make quicker decisions, think more fluidly, and avoid harmful distractions, writes Professor Brad Love (UCL Experimental Psychology) in The Conversation.

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