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July 9, 2002

Top-up fees back on the agenda
Higher tuition fees and the end of universal “soft” loans for students should be introduced to inject more money into cash-strapped universities, the Commons education committee will propose this week. Universities could also be allowed to demand top-up fees despite the government’s manifesto commitment not to introduce the extra charges.
(Guardian, Financial Times)

Students condemn boycott of Israeli universities
The boycott of Israeli universities led by British academics was condemned last night by the National Union of Students. The NUS attacked as “racist” the sacking of two academics from a pair of Manchester-based journals because they worked at Israeli universities.
(Guardian, Daily Mail)

Engineering degree needs makeover
Britain’s engineering degrees need a radical overhaul if the profession is to seriously address the shortfall of qualified graduates, according to a leading figure in the profession John Allen of John Allen Consulting.

Skills council denies tension
The Learning and Skills Council is rejecting claims that relations are poor between its central operation and its 47 local branches. Allegations of “clear tensions” within the LSC are the latest of a succession of criticisms of the giant quango made by the Association of Colleges.

Getting the right grade can be a lottery
The grading of essays is a “lottery” according to new research from North London and Surrey universities. Researchers invited 100 history and psychology lecturers from a broad range of universities to mark sample essays. Only 50 per cent agreed on the classification they should receive.

No prospect of total cure for Aids
Aids will remain intrinsically incurable unless there is a new approach to designing drugs, according to Robert Siliciano, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He told the international Aids conference in Barcelona yesterday that the drugs that suppressed the virus to keep people in rich countries alive and well would not clear the last vestiges of HIV from the body as scientists had hoped.
(Times, Guardian)

Britain joins elite stargazers
Distant galaxies and solar systems came within sight of British astronomers yesterday when the UK belatedly joined an elite group of European stargazers. The move to pay £80 million to become the tenth member of the European Southern Observatory gives British scientists access to the best international telescopes and technology, including the Very Large Telescope in northern Chile.
(Times, Daily Telegraph)

Baby blood saves leukaemia patient
A leukaemia patient given only months to live is the first adult in Britain to have a life-saving bone marrow transplant using blood from a baby’s umbilical cord. Professor Stephen Proctor, based at Newcastle Hospital Trust, performed the transplant on nurse Stephen Knox.
(Daily Mail, Guardian, Daily Mirror)

Alzheimer drug could lead to memory pill
A drug for Alzheimer’s disease could lead to a memory pill. The drug, Aricept, was successfully tested on 18 healthy pilots. Dr Jerome Yesavage, who led the research at Stanford University, California, expressed his concern at the implications of such use in the journal Neurology.

Epidemiologist dies
Alice Stewart, one of Britain’s foremost epidemiologists, has died at the age of 95. Early in her career she showed that x-raying foetuses caused childhood leukaemia and went on to demonstrate the harmful effects of exposure to low-level radiation.

Weapons expert dies
Hugh Metcalfe, fellow of the Royal Academy of engineering, associate member of the Royal Academy of Science and a specialist in rockets and guided weapons systems, has died on the eve of his 74th birthday.
(Daily Telegraph)

Caesar’s soldiers gave us fish paste
Archaeologists can now say with confidence what life was like for the Roman legionaries stationed at the end of the empire in Carlisle almost 2,000 years ago – it rained all the time and it stank of fermented fish. The experts dug up evidence of a 1st-century pot of fish paste during the Millennium Dig outside Carlisle Castle.
(Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Guardian)      

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