Today's news

October 30, 2002

Universities threaten to go private
Britain’s elite universities are threatening to lead a breakaway from state-funded higher education if the government waters down plans allowing them to charge top-up tuition fees worth thousands of pounds. Charles Clarke, the education secretary, is understood to be considering postponing next month's announcement on university funding so that he can rethink the proposals. Any such decision would risk the wrath of top universities including Oxford and Cambridge, who say they will never compete with the world's best unless they are allowed to charge "differential fees" for tuition. These could be as much as £15,000 a year, in addition to the £1,000 already paid by students from richer backgrounds. At least one university chief said last night that Mr Clarke could force the 18-strong Russell Group into a declaration of independence if he reneges on what they believe was a "done deal".
(Times)

Britain offers 'best value' degrees
Advocates of higher university fees received encouragement yesterday from a survey that found that British graduates enjoy the largest earnings premium in the world. The report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also concluded that the country's performance at secondary school level had been surpassed by most of its rivals. The author of the report said the twin findings suggested that successive governments had concentrated on high achievers, leaving a gulf in the jobs market between the skilled and the unskilled. It is estimated that British graduates earn a total of £400,000 more than their unqualified peers.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times)

Full text of Sassoon war poem restored
A piece of Siegfried Sassoon's previously unpublished poetry went on display in Britain for the first time at the Imperial War Museum yesterday. The original manuscript of the poem, I’d Timed My Death in Action to the Minute , has been lost, but a copy was taken by Sassoon’s fellow war poet, Robert Graves. Graves’s copy, which he annotated with the legend “Bloody good poem”, is part of the Anthem for Doomed Youth exhibition of 12 soldier poets of the First World War.
(Times)

Test detects early signs of bowel cancer
A simple and inexpensive test for bowel cancer could save lives by picking up on the early signs of the disease, scientists announced yesterday. Researchers from Cancer Research UK said that they had isolated a protein molecule found in patients with bowel cancer and devised a test that successfully identified it in patients known to have the disease. If further clinical trials are successful they hope the new procedure could form part of a national screening programme for bowel cancer, which kills 16,000 people a year in Britain. The same protein is known to exist in other tumours and work is continuing to devise similar tests for lung and cervical cancers.
(Times, Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail)

Improved diet in middle age may extend life
Research suggests a low-calorie diet can slow the heart's ageing process and extend its working life. Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found middle-aged mice on calorie-restricted diets had stronger hearts in old age. Numerous studies on animals have shown nutritious diets low in calories can result in significant health benefits, slow ageing and extend longevity. In some cases, the life-spans of animals in experiments have been increased by as much as a third. Even when calorie intake was not restricted until middle age, the life-span of mice increased by 20 per cent.
(Independent)

Antarctica's hungry birds seek shelter off Britain
In a series of phenomenal journeys, the seabirds of the Southern Ocean, of Tristan da Cunha and the Falkland Islands and Antarctica, are coming to Britain and the north-east Atlantic in increasing numbers. Their unprecedented trips to the opposite end of the globe may be linked, some scientists think, to climate change and its effect on the productivity of plankton and the organisms at the bottom of the food chain.
(Independent)

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