Today's news

November 29, 2002

Blair not bent on top-up fees, says Clarke
Downing Street is "not wedded" to the idea of top-up fees for university students, the education secretary, Charles Clarke, told MPs yesterday. Though Tony Blair and his policy unit chief, Andrew Adonis, are widely seen as the prime movers behind proposals to charge higher fees, Mr Clarke insisted they were prepared to consider other ways of injecting more money into universities. "It is not the case that either the prime minister or his staff are wedded to top-up fees," he told the Commons. "What they are committed to is raising money for universities. The suggestion that there is a group of people madly focused on top-up fees is not the case."

High fees not a bar to poorer applicants
High tuition fees need not deter poorer students from applying to the best universities, Peter Lampl, a government adviser, said yesterday. In the United States more than half of high school graduates from the poorest families went on to university even though fees were far higher than in Britain, he said. Mr Lampl, who advises the Department for Education on university access, said that students in Britain should get used to borrowing to pay for university education.
(Times, Financial Times)

Universities under the microscope
Universities are to be subjected to in-depth scrutiny of the way they are run as part of a new inquiry into links between higher education and business. Gordon Brown wants the inquiry, to be led by Richard Lambert, the former Financial Times editor, to examine how universities should modernise their management. Officially, the independent investigation announced by the chancellor on Wednesday will study how universities can boost their income by developing closer relations with business. But senior Treasury sources made clear that Mr Brown also expected the Lambert inquiry to carry out a searching examination of university management practices.

Cabbie's £25,000 China fare
A taxi driver from Barnet arrived back in Britain yesterday after driving two Chinese passengers 10,016 miles from Beijing in the back of his black cab. Tony Arnold drove for 13 weeks across two continents. Along the way he had the job of teaching English to his two "fares", Scarlet, whose Chinese name is Yuchan Wang, and Chun Chun, whose Chinese name is Liang Yuchun. The journey was filmed for Chinese television. It is part of a drive by the Chinese government to encourage its population to speak English - and they chose a London cabbie as a teacher.

Website translates books into visual art
An American designer has made a website that turns books and documents into visual works of art by showing how every word in the text relates to every other one. The most striking effects have come through analysis of famous books such as Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland , Shakespeare's plays and the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf . The site ( puts text into an interactive map that allows viewers to see relationships between words and characters at a glance, without having read the book. The more often a word appears, the brighter it will be in the display. The technique is to be displayed at the New York Public Library on a touch screen.

Groundbreaking transplant scientist dies
Rupert Billingham, the scientist whose groundbreaking experiments helped to win a Nobel Prize and opened the door to human organ transplants, has died aged 81, in Boston, Massachusetts.

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