Today's news

December 5, 2002

Blair backtracks on top-up fees
Tony Blair bowed to cabinet pressure last night by ruling out the imposition of large "top-up" university fees on students starting their degrees. The prime minister’s promise that parents would not have to pay thousands of pounds in "upfront" fees, prompted Tory accusations of a spectacular U-turn. As thousands of students protested through London, Mr Blair hinted in the Commons that he favoured a system in which fees varied depending on the choice of university or degree course. However, higher costs of going to more expensive colleges would still have to be met in part by parents and students.
(Times, Guardian, Financial Times)

New Cambridge v-c speaks out on fees reform
Speaking yesterday before a private meeting with education secretary Charles Clarke, Alison Richard, the vice-chancellor-elect of Cambridge University, insisted that any reforms of higher education must not deter the poor. Market-based tuition fees are not the only reason the children of the poor can be put off a university career, she commented. The agenda for her meeting with Mr Clarke in London was not disclosed, but the government will want to draw on her experience of running an Ivy League university, which charges up to £24,000 a year but uses a £6.4 billion endowment fund to meet the living and tuition costs of poorer students.
(Financial Times, Times)

There is a third way
Neither top-up fees nor a graduate tax will solve the university funding crisis. London School of Economics director Anthony Giddens advocates an innovative student loan system is our best bet.
(Guardian)

Ivy League Lessons
Admiring British ministers see US universities as models for the UK. But importing such a system is more complicated than it looks. While rising fees may not affect rising levels of access to universities in the US, the system still fails, as does the British one, to offer higher education fairly to all.
(Financial Times)
Comment: C Duncan Rice, principal of the University of Aberdeen says that universities should look at private fundraising.
(Independent)

Degrees of affluence
A report from the Council for Industry and Higher Education has found that the salary boosts that some of the best universities confer on a graduate cannot be taken at face value. "There are huge disparities in earnings according to type of institution and subject studied," according to one of the study's co-authors. "There is a 'brand value' in a degree from a leading Russell Group institution, but it's not as great as people have imagined," says Richard Brown, the council's chief executive.
(Independent)

Financial lure for new graduates
The Chartered Institute of Taxation recently ran a survey among young graduates asking them why they chose to go into finance-based careers and what areas they particularly wanted to go into. The answer to the first question simply related to (perceived) large amounts of money. The answer to the second was corporate finance.
(Financial Times)

Chocolate could cure your cough
Chocolate could hold the secret to curing ticklish coughs, according to a study of theobromine, a chemical found in cocoa beans. The results are due to be presented today by a team from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College, London. Sadly for chocolate lovers the experts say it takes at least 25 fingers of Kit Kat or 25 tubes of Rolos to get any benefit.
(Daily Telegraph)

Mathematician unravels knotty problem
An Australian mathematician has unveiled formulae to identify the strongest and most efficient ways of lacing shoes today in the journal Nature . Criss cross and straight, the most popular ways to lace shoes, are not the most efficient when it comes to the amount of lace used, they are however, the strongest.
(Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Times)

Gere wins gibberish award
Gibberish spoken by celebrities and on websites has replaced bureaucratic jargon as the leading abuse of the English language, according to the yearly Plain English Campaign awards yesterday. Movie star Richard Gere has won the campaign's Foot in Mouth award for incomprehensible sentences. Interviewed by journalists over rumours about his sexual orientation, he said: "You have to start to really look at yourself. I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. Does it change the fact of who I am what anyone says about it?"
(Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

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