Today's news

November 4, 2002

Universities' anger grows after Clarke delays budget decision
Relations between universities and the government hit a new low point yesterday after education secretary Charles Clarke postponed an announcement of their funding for next year. Vice-chancellors had expected to learn this month how much the government was planning to give to higher education over the next three years. Now they are likely to have to wait until January to learn what they can expect in their budgets in April. Mr Clarke delayed the funding announcement after Tony Blair last week postponed for the third time publication of the white paper on reform of higher education finance.

Fee school pupils 'should pay for university'
Parents who can afford independent education should pay the cost of their children's university courses as well, says the body inquiring into social exclusion. The tuition fees of up to £10,500 a year being proposed by some leading universities should apply only to students from fee-paying schools, according to the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion. "Parents of students from independent schools have signalled their ability to pay for education and research shows that these students earn significantly more in the labour market," Abigail McKnight, a research fellow at the Economic and Social Research Council's centre, said at the weekend. Miss McKnight said that the fear of being charged more than the present £1,100 would deter pupils from poor homes from going to university. Means-tested bursaries would not solve the problem because each university would run them differently, causing uncertainty.
(Daily Telegraph)

Universities block private pupils who join state system
Universities are to crack down on middle-class parents who try to beat the university entrance system by moving their children from private to state schools when they start their A levels. Tutors at Bristol University, one of a growing number of institutions where the A-level grades of applicants are weighted according to the school they attended, have been told to penalise the applicants. Other universities, including Durham, Edinburgh, St Andrews and the London School of Economics, are understood to be adopting similar tactics before the publication of a white paper on higher education in January that is expected to offer further financial inducements for taking more state school pupils. Universities get a small "postcode premium" if they take students from poorer areas.
(Times, Daily Mail)

Epilepsy drug link to birth defects
Babies born to women taking a common epilepsy drug during pregnancy are almost twice as likely to have birth defects than those on other epilepsy medication, a study by doctors at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast has found. An audit of more than 2,000 pregnant women with epilepsy discovered that the drug sodium valproate carries significantly greater risk than alternative medications.

Deep sea diet
The government wants to turn fish vegetarian, to ease dwindling stocks. As salmon, trout, haddock and cod are fed smaller wild fish, the fish farming industry is becoming unsustainable. But scientists believe they have found a chemical that will make them eat vegetable matter instead.

The proper Charlie
The change is truly remarkable. Charles Clarke appears in front of the camera in 1963 as a polite, beaming member if a prep-school cricket team, his slicked down hair as neat as his smart blazer. Yet, fast forward almost 40 years, and this product of a civil service family and public school education has been transformed into a bruising, dishevelled, straight-talking Labour politician, as notorious for his lack of diplomacy as his colourful political past.
(Daily Mail)

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