Today's news

November 19, 2002

Merger killed by dons' opposition
Plans to merge two London colleges into a "super-versity" were abandoned yesterday after running into stiff opposition from academic staff. The proposal to combine the resources of Imperial College and University College London was derailed by senior dons at UCL, who feared that their individual identity - and with it many of their jobs - would be lost. Others had suggested that the process was being driven by the personal ambitions of Sir Derek Roberts, the acting Provost of UCL, and Sir Richard Sykes, his opposite number. Commentators had predicted that the move would mean the effective end of the University of London.
(Times, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent)

'All students should pay university fees'
Ministers pose the stark question today of whether all university students should pay tuition fees regardless of their parents' income, as the government launches a wide-ranging consultation document on higher education funding. The document, posted on the department's website, asks fundamental questions about university funding ahead of government proposals due in January. Treating 18-year-olds as dependants who are assessed on their family's wealth may have encouraged them to regard course fees as a debt rather than an investment, the Department for Education and Skills suggests. In an indication of just how far Charles Clarke, the education secretary, is prepared to rethink university funding, he calls into question the assumption that parental income should feature at all in the assessment of youngsters whose university education will add £400,000 to their lifetime earnings.
(Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian)

You don't need a degree to know that universities are hard up
The question of whether universities should charge students top-up fees may be tearing at the Labour party these days, but all sides in the argument agree that the university system is drastically underfunded and in need of a big cash injection as soon as possible. Most of this problem has been caused by the drive by successive governments to increase participation in higher education.

Urgent lessons in adequate funding
Robert Stevens, master of Pembroke College, University of Oxford comments: The English middle classes want their children to go to leading universities but they are not prepared to pay, even on the never-never. Having either sent them to public schools or nurtured them through the state system, they regard free or highly subsidised university education as an inalienable perk of the welfare state. The argument that graduates will earn £250,000 more in lifetime earnings than non-graduates will not convince either Old Labour or Middle England. Indeed, they are happy to let the 50 per cent who do not make it to university subsidise the fortunate 50 per cent.
(Financial Times)

Blair and Brown at war over top-up fees
Almost all the cabinet enjoyed a privileged life at university free of charge. So why are so many hell-bent on pulling up the ladder behind them?
(Daily Mail)

Students fight hardliners in Tehran protest
Hundreds of Islamic hardliners fought pro-reform students at a rally in Tehran yesterday in the worst violence in ten days of protests against a dissident's death sentence. Some 3,000 students criticised Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and called for a referendum on reforms.

Cultural revolution
What is attracting 18,000 Chinese students a year to study in the UK?

Grab them young
Student mentors from universities in the Northeast are targeting primary children to encourage them to go on to higher education.

What use is a PhD?
The trend in professional and vocational doctorates investigated.

Storms ahead
Some sixth-form colleges are certain to close as the Learning and Skills Councils review their provision.

Human wrongs
The World University helps refugees continue to campaign against repression.

Decaf coffee gives same kick as full-strength
Decaffeinated coffee is no healthier than conventional coffee and may be just as likely to keep drinkers awake all night, scientists have found. Research in Switzerland shows that normal and decaffeinated coffee have near-identical effects on blood pressure and nervous activity, indicating that a decaf latte is no better for you than the real thing. The results suggest that coffee's well-established influence on blood pressure, nerve stimulation and cardiovascular health may have nothing to do with caffeine, contrary to received wisdom. Coffee has several hundred other chemical components, one or more of which must be responsible, the researchers from University Hospital in Zurich say.
(Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

IBM starts on computer to rival human brain
The first supercomputers to approach and even surpass the processing power of the human brain are to be built by IBM, under a £184 million contract announced by the US government yesterday. ASCI Purple and Blue Gene/L will be the fastest and most powerful machines built, with a combined capacity equal to the 500 best of today’s computers.

Musical archive saved for the nation
The archive of the Royal Philharmonic Society, with Beethoven's annotated copy of his Ninth Symphony, was bought by the British Library for £1 million after a public appeal. Proceeds will support young composers and performers.
(Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

Larkin poem unveiled after 26 years
An undiscovered poem of high quality by Philip Larkin is published for the first time today. For 26 years, its existence and virtually all its text have been secrets kept by one person - his former secretary and lover Betty Mackereth. The untitled poem, imbued with Larkinesque sadness about the passing of love, relationships and the seasons, is revealed to 300 members of the Philip Larkin Society in their latest newsletter.

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