Postgraduate: crime science; distance learning; canine stress; urban foxes

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The Independent Online

It is five years since the television presenter Jill Dando was murdered.

It is five years since the television presenter Jill Dando was murdered. The anniversary has been used by the academic centre set up in her name to announce new scholarships for its MSc in crime science. Five high-flyers, likely to be recent graduates or serving police officers, will have their fees paid for a year at the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science. One scholar will win an additional £10,000 to cover living costs - a welcome boost to their finances, because the Institute is based at UCL in expensive central London.

The course looks at how to prevent crime rather than simply how to catch criminals. "This is not criminology, which is about describing and understanding crime; nor is it forensics, although we teach elements of forensic science," says Professor Gloria Laycock, the institute's director. "We want to deliver immediate reductions in crime."

The approach includes a range of disciplines - statistics, psychology, geography, design and town planning. Anticipating crime is a key part of the battle, says Professor Laycock. "We know that there is a lot of repeat victimisation. A commercial premises is likely to be burgled again and again. If the police stepped back and analysed the data properly, they could organise surveillance and catch the criminals."

* The first woman premier of Eastern Cape province in South Africa is taking an MSc at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Nosimo Balindlela is one of seven Eastern Cape politicians on the school's distance-learning masters in public policy and management.

Studying remotely is not a problem for these students, says their tutor, Norman Flynn. "They are all members of the African National Congress, and many started their education in prison, so they are used to unconventional methods of learning." Flynn hopes that Balindlela, who has pledged to help the many poor people in the Eastern Cape, will find the time to complete her course.

* A student on an unusual MSc at Edinburgh University - applied animal behaviour and animal welfare - has made a contribution to the field of dog psychology. Elaine Tod wafted a vapour known as dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) through kennels in an animal shelter and found that it reduced the frequency and noise levels of barking among the dogs. It also made them friendlier. DAP is synthetic, and chemically identical to the pheromone produced by a lactating bitch three days after giving birth. In nature, the pheromone is produced next to the milk glands, released as vapour via the mother's body heat, and received by the puppy through a part of the nose known as the vomeronasal organ. Tod released the synthetic pheromone via a gadget similar to a plug-in air freshener.

"My study suggests DAP is a useful palliative tool for reducing canine stress and fear," she says.

* From stressed dogs to playful fox cubs. Willow van As of Manchester Metropolitan University is studying the behaviour of young foxes. By observing the cubs, Van As - who is taking an MSc in behavioural ecology - hopes to understand how their play relates to survival strategies later in life. "Play enables them to learn and develop vital skills for hunting in later life," she says. "Each day they learn a little bit more, and take great delight in crouching, stalking, pouncing and surprising an unwary sibling." Fox cubs are born between March and May, and start to play around the den when they are about a month old. Van As's research is part of Foxwatch, a long-running project at the university. It looks at the behaviour and environment of urban foxes. If you have foxes using your shed or garden as an "earth" (den), or know where an earth might be, Foxwatch would like to hear from you. Van As or Dr Jan Chapman can be contacted on 0161-247 1599 or at foxwatch@mmu.ac.uk

g.mccann@independent.co.uk

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