Today's news

November 11, 2002

Cambridge may break ranks over top-up fees
Cambridge University will consider opposing top-up fees today, breaking with other elite institutions and intensifying the debate over charging students. The university's ruling council will be urged to back a statement calling on the government to explore other ways of raising cash for universities. The statement warns that top-up fees will be potentially damaging to Cambridge's attempts to woo more students from underprivileged backgrounds. Meanwhile, Dr Michael Goldstein, the vice-chancellor of Coventry University, will warn in a speech today of "the awful threat of a fees escalation led by well-off universities predominantly serving the well-off". Students' representatives will table the Cambridge statement – though the university's vice-chancellor, Sir Alec Broers, is understood to have told students last week that it was "quite possible" it would pass. Students plan a demonstration to coincide with today's council meeting.

Number of jobless graduates rises
Graduate unemployment is rising for the first time in a decade, figures to be released today show. The proportion of people out of work six months after completing their degree rose to 6.3 per cent from 5.5 per cent the previous year. The main factor behind the rise has been the decline of the information technology industry, the annual What Do Graduates Do? report, published by the Careers Service Unit, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, reveals.

Payout over poor A level 'will not open floodgates'
A school has agreed to pay compensation to a sixth-form pupil who sued because she managed only a low pass in her Latin A level. Katherine Norfolk, 20, blamed poor teaching at Hurstpierpoint College, a boarding school that charges £3,765 a term for day pupils, for her failure to achieve the A grade she had been expected to achieve. Lawyers have given warning that the payment will make it easier for other dissatisfied pupils to sue over disappointing results, but yesterday independent schools dismissed the idea that it would lead to a series of cases. The out-of-court payment, believed to be close to £10,000, falls well short of the £150,000 she sought initially.

Men ahead at comprehensives
Men are much more likely to become heads of comprehensive schools than women. But the reverse is true in primary schools, according to a survey for the National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association. It showed that women got 70 per cent of the top jobs going in primary schools in England and Wales from September 2001 to June 2002, but only 35 per cent of secondary headships. Secondary heads' salaries can be up to double those in primary schools.
(Financial Times)

Cannabis 'may cause public health disaster'
Doctors warn today that the use of cannabis, the most commonly-used illegal drug in the UK, could result in a public health disaster on the scale of that caused by tobacco because its toxic side-effects are being ignored. Evidence is growing that the drug that inspired a generation to make love, not war, in the 1960s is a trigger of psychotic delusion, lung disease and immune dysfunction. A review by the British Lung Foundation says that the cannabis available on the streets today is 15 times more powerful than the joints being touted three decades ago. Smoking three joints a day causes the same damage to the lungs as 20 cigarettes.
(Independent, Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail)

Cancer specialists identify the 'death gene'
Cancer specialists think they have found a "death gene" that may play a role in making healthy cells die – but which malignant cells exploit to stay alive. The researchers at the Beatson Laboratories in Glasgow believe that the discovery will be important in developing treatments that are able to make tumours self-destruct. Some of the body's genes apparently exist only to trigger cells to commit "suicide" - for instance when they appear to be about to turn cancerous - to keep the body's tissues in a constantly shifting equilibrium. But cells that do become cancerous either lack or ignore those genes.

Greeks offer deal to get marbles back
Greece's campaign to shame Britain into handing back the Elgin Marbles comes to London this week when the Greek culture minister presents officials with elaborate plans of the new Acropolis museum where exhibition space will be left empty for the treasures. The minister, Evangelos Venizelos, is expected to ratchet up the pressure for the classical sculptures to be put on permanent loan to Greece - in exchange for all manner of rotating exhibitions - during a meeting with the new director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, today.

Parting of the Red Sea 'caused by volcano'
Fresh evidence that the biblical plagues and the parting of the Red Sea were natural events rather than myths or miracles is to be presented in a new BBC documentary. Moses , which will be broadcast next month, will suggest that much of the Bible story can be explained by a single natural disaster, a huge volcanic eruption on the Greek island of Santorini in the 16th century BC.
(Daily Telegraph)

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