Tales Out Of School: Strange Stories From The Global Classroom

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Academia is just skin deep: The first official university league tables were published last week, showing drop-out rates from every university and higher education college. Universities and the National Union of Students blame the high level of student drop-outs on poor financial and social support from government. However, there is another factor at work. Students at Newcastle University are blaming their academic problems on their ugly professors.

A survey by the university's student newspaper The Courier reveals a lack of good-looking academics to inspire students to attend lectures and get better marks. More than half the students surveyed admitted that looks mattered to lecturers' performance.

Newcastle's lecturers rate, on average, a measly 2.8 out of 10 on the "phoaar!" scale, and the one voted the best looking, Dr Jack Scannell, left his post in the psychology department months ago.

The figures would seem to back the claim up. The sexiest department is business management and last year 88 per cent of its students gained a 2:1 or better. At the other end of the scale, the agriculture department with an appalling 0.7 out of 10 "phoaar!" rating managed to get just 62 per cent to a 2:1 or better.

As if academia hasn't got enough to contend with, students at the university are now demanding that better looking staff be employed in order to improve their chances of success.

You really want a mountain bike? Researchers from the University Hospital in Innsbruck, Austria, have published the results of their research into a rather touchy subject. It seems that mountain biking could cause all manner of problems with the scrotum, including benign tumours, swelling and extreme pain.

Ferdinand Frauscher, spokesman for the six-strong Innsbruck research team, released a study of 45 "serious" mountain bikers ranging in age from 17 to 44. They, and a similar group of non-biking men, were given "scrotal ultrasound examinations".

The study found that 96 per cent of the bikers had abnormalities in the nether region compared to only 16 per cent among non-bikers. Problems included painful benign tumours, sperm-containing cysts, calcification of the epididymis... you get the picture?

Parents who are tearing their hair out due to incessant demands from their children for the biking fashion icon of the Nineties now have the ultimate weapon to silence their nagging child. What nine-year-old is going to argue with "scrotal ultrasound examinations"?

Mr Frauscher was helpful enough to give this advice: "Bike seats with holes in them or shaped like a `Y' to alleviate the pressure may help somewhat, as may wearing a jock strap or other support." Ahhh! The joy that is Christmas...

Cheapskate thieves: In the battle against the burglar, staff at James Hornsby High School in Laindon, Essex installed CCTV cameras to watch out for wrong doers.

But one morning, they turned up to find all the cameras had been stolen. The message given to the dastardly thieves is simple: If you want blank video tapes for the Christmas telly, buy your own!

Chris Brown