Today's news

December 10, 2002

Universities will be told to favour poor
Universities will have to discriminate in favour of poorer students from non-academic backgrounds under new guidelines being developed by the government. They will be set "benchmark" targets for increasing recruitment of teenagers from low-income homes and where neither parent went to university. Admissions officers will also be expected to give special consideration to applicants from schools with a history of poor examination results. Extra funding could be available to provide incentives for universities to meet the benchmarks, being drawn up by Margaret Hodge, the higher education minister. The Independent Schools Council accused her of social engineering on "questionable evidence". The benchmarks will replace existing goals for raising the proportion of state school students at leading universities. Fee-paying schools have expressed concern that these targets already lead some universities to discriminate against their students.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

PM hints at different top-up fee levels
The prime minister hinted yesterday that the government had accepted that different universities would be freed to charge different levels of fees - and that individuals would have to pay back only what they had borrowed to meet university costs, rather than face a broader graduate tax that could see successful students paying back more. In a clear swipe at the Treasury's preferred graduate tax option, he added that individuals currently paid back only their actual loan "so it would certainly be a change of principle if we were to make you pay for somebody else's university education".
(Financial Times)

University funding inequality rules
A study of higher education finance throughout the UK conducted by David Stiles of Cardiff Business School says that the funding system continues to discriminate against new universities. His claims, which are strongly contested by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, are due to be published in the journal Public Administration .

Divided we fall
The education secretary asks whether academics should be steered into specialising in either teaching or research. Roderick Floud comments.

More education devolved to local councils
Town halls will have an extra £5.1 billion a year to fund schools locally in a big expansion of financial devolution, Charles Clarke, the education secretary, said yesterday. A whole series of Whitehall "ring-fenced" grants are to be abolished and, by 2005-06, more than £9 out of £10 spent on schools should be allocated on the ground.
(Financial Times, Guardian)

Nobel chemistry prize winner disputed
When Koichi Tanaka said that he did not deserve the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, it was assumed in Japan that this was a case of false modesty. A lowly research scientist for a commercial company, without a doctoral degree and unknown to many in his field, his unfeigned amazement and pleasure at winning the prize made him an overnight national hero. But it seemed yesterday that Mr Tanaka may have been right after all. As he prepared to accept his prize at today's ceremony in Stockholm, an argument rages among scientists who claim that the Nobel has gone to the wrong man. At least one distinguished chemist will boycott the banquet, insisting that Mr Tanaka's victory has robbed two German scientists of their rightful glory.

Iran students' protest grows despite militia
Iranian students want to force a referendum on how the country should be run. And far from subsiding, their month-long protests are gathering momentum - indeed, they are beginning to cause real worry for the hardliners who cling to power in the face of Mr Khatami's calls for reform. Last Saturday, for the first time, members of the public turned out in huge numbers to support the students. As many as 10,000 filled the streets outside the university to demand change and an end to oppression.

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