Today's news

December 6, 2002

Top-up fees solution may be in sight
The Australian model of top-up fees funded by loans and repaid after graduation via the tax system is emerging as the frontrunner in the government's frantic search for a solution to university funding. Officials in Downing Street and at the department of education have been studying the Australian Higher Education Contribution Scheme, which charges differential fees and recovers loans through pay packets. Ministers are impressed with the Australian scheme because discounts of up to 25 per cent are offered to those who pay their debts in a lump sum, or in smaller lump sums later. The government is also considering writing off the debts of those who graduate and go into the public services.
(Financial Times, Times)

Debt fears deter university entry
A study of university undergraduates published today reveals that more than half admit to producing poor quality assignments because of the time they spend working to offset their debts. The study, commissioned by Universities UK, offers the first hard evidence of the impact debt is having on students' academic performance. Almost two-thirds said they worked more than 11 hours a week, while 15 per cent said they worked more than 21 hours a week. A second study of school leavers also confirms that fear of debt is discouraging applicants from poorer backgrounds.
(Independent, Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

Canada rules on mouse patent
A genetically engineered mouse developed by Harvard University for use in cancer research cannot be patented in Canada, the country's supreme court ruled yesterday. In a 5-4 decision, the court said the mouse is not an invention as defined by the Patent Act of 1869. The decision means Canadian researchers will be able to use such mice for research without paying a licence fee.
(Financial Times)

Scientists find key to winter depression
A team at the Baker Research Institute in Melbourne have found a molecular basis for the seasonal affective disorder that makes many people depressed in winter. Low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are to blame.
(Financial Times)

Italians make late challenge for football glory
The origins of the beautiful game have long been a matter of dispute. But Italy's most authoritative encyclopedia has no doubts. It has plumped for ancient Rome as the birthplace of football, or at least the place where it really caught on.

Museum slaves over Roman find
The Museum of London yesterday unveiled a working model of the lifting machine that provided Roman London with its water. Dozens of slaves would have walked up to miles a day on its treadmills to lift water from the wells in wooden buckets.

Old clues to New World history
An architect from Liverpool John Moores University announced that she has identified the American continent's oldest known skeleton, belonging to a 13,000-year-old woman excavated close to Mexico City. Meanwhile, US researchers report in Science today that they have discovered the oldest writing found in the New World: simple glyphs on a cylindrical seal made by the Olmec people of south-eastern Mexico in about 650BC.
(Financial Times)

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