Today's news

November 8, 2002

University top-up fees opposed by 75% of parents
Two thirds of university vice-chancellors are either in favour of charging higher tuition fees or view them as inevitable, a survey has found. But another survey shows that three out of four parents are opposed to universities charging top-up fees. The results highlight a growing mood of restlessness over the issue as leaders of Britain's universities battle to control large financial deficits. Nineteen of the 46 vice-chancellors who responded to the survey by The Times Higher Education Supplement wanted undergraduate fees to be raised, while ten said they were uncommitted but viewed them as inevitable. Fifteen claimed that they opposed higher fees, although many of those admitted that they were still preparing for their introduction. In the survey for The Times Educational Supplement , more than twice as many - 54 per cent - said that the government should invest extra public money in Britain's best universities, if necessary by raising taxes. Another 23 per cent believed that universities "should do what they can with the income they receive under the present system and not try to compete with the world's best".
(Times, THES, TES, Guardian)

World-beating genetics centre gets go-ahead
The world’s most advanced laboratory for translating the human genetic code into medical breakthroughs is to be built near Cambridge. The £100 million facility finally won planning permission yesterday. The laboratory, which will open in spring 2005, will transform British scientists' ability to turn the knowledge gained from the mapping of the human genome into treatments for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. Up to 200 leading scientists, many of them medical researchers head-hunted from American universities, will be recruited by the Wellcome Trust, to join the expanded Genome Campus at Hinxton.
(Times, Financial Times)

Students to challenge 'flawed' A-level inquiry
Students are seeking to bring a legal challenge over the results of an independent inquiry into the A-level fiasco because their grades were not raised. They claim that they did not receive the results they deserved because either the re-grading exercise was flawed or the subjects they studied were not included. One student lost out on an Oxbridge place because one of her music modules was failed with a U grade. It was not one of the modules which was re-graded and an appeal by the school through the usual channels failed to get it raised.
(Daily Telegraph)

Law firms favour 'old universities'
Law firms favour graduates from old universities when recruiting trainee solicitors, a report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said yesterday.   The firms targeted recruitment at favoured universities, particularly Oxford and Cambridge. Law firms also tended to forge links with independent and selective schools, added the report, which was commissioned by the Law Society. Ethnic minority students were more than twice as likely to study law at a new university - a former polytechnic - than an old one, and more than half of all law students were at new universities.
(Financial Times)

History lecturer given death sentence in Iran
A leading Iranian reformer, Hashem Aghajari, 45, was sentenced to death yesterday for apostasy and questioning the religious establishment's right to rule. At a closed, jury-less trial he was also sentenced to 74 lashes, eight years in jail and a ten-year teaching ban on other charges, his lawyer said. Mr Aghajari, a history lecturer who lost a leg in the Iran-Iraq war, was arrested last summer for comparing the powers of Iran's ruling clergy to those of popes hundreds of years ago. He said that Muslims should not blindly follow religious leaders, and senior ayatollahs should not expect Muslims to follow them like monkeys.

Chief rabbi rewrites book after criticism
Britain's chief rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, is to issue a new edition of his latest book within weeks, after rewriting passages that have been attacked as heretical. He is accelerating the publication of the second edition of The Dignity of Difference following criticism that the book suggests that no religious faith contains the whole truth. The new edition will effectively supersede the original version, published in August. Orthodox rabbis have taken deep offence at several passages. Some senior rabbis have described it as heretical and called for its withdrawal.
(Daily Telegraph)

EU to ban cosmetics tests on animals
The European Union has agreed to ban the use of animals for testing key cosmetic products, overcoming fierce French resistance in a marathon 12-hour session that ended years of wrangling. The compromise between Euro-MPs and EU governments was hailed as a victory for animal rights, though it still allows firms to feed toxins to mice, rabbits, and primates under certain conditions for another 10 years if no other methods of testing exist. The law will stop animal testing of everything from perfume to lipstick to shampoo under staggered deadlines by 2009. It also prevents the marketing of products tested on animals outside the EU, stopping firms from evading the rules by using laboratories outside the EU.
(Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Independent)

Beginning school too young is bad for education
Children in the UK are starting school too early, one of the country's most respected education research bodies said yesterday. "There is no education rationale for a compulsory school starting age of five or for the practice of admitting four-year-olds to infant classes," a study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said. It suggests starting school at six could help stop many youngsters leaving formal education later.

Lifespan expectancy shortest in Manchester
Manchester emerged yesterday as the place to avoid for people hoping for a long and healthy life. According to the Office for National Statistics, it has the shortest life expectancy for both men and women of any area in England and Wales. Men in Manchester can expect to die at 69.7 years compared with the men of north Dorset, who can expect to die at 79.6 years. Women's' life expectancy in the Northwest's regional capital is 76.3 years, compared with 83.5 in west Somerset.
(Guardian, Independent)

DNA checks could help to get shark out of the soup
A DNA test for shark fins sold for food to discover whether they have come from basking sharks has been developed by Britain. The government is spearheading proposals to limit trade in the harmless shark, which lives on plankton. It is endangered by commercial fishing to meet the demand for shark fin soup. Single large fins sell for £10,000 in China. Most shark-fishing nations, including Japan, Norway and Iceland, oppose controls on the trade, claiming that customs officers would not be able to enforce any controls because it is too difficult to tell the difference between fins of the basking shark and fins of other sharks that are not endangered.
(Times, Guardian, Independent)

Nasa asks author to prove man did land on the moon
Nasa has taken the extraordinary step of commissioning a book to prove that the 1969 moon landing was not a fake. The 30,000-word publication is to prove that the Apollo landings were an astonishing feat of science and bravery, and were not simulated in a Hollywood studio. Claims that Nasa faked the moon landings have gathered momentum in recent years.
(Daily Telegraph)

Renowned American lexicographer dies
Allen Walker Read, the lexicographer fascinated by the many registers of language, who hunted down the origins of the expression 'OK', died on 16 October, aged 96.

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