Today's news

December 18, 2002

One in four university students drops out
Nearly a quarter of the students who enrol at universities and higher education colleges leave without taking a degree, statistics published yesterday showed. Of the 284,000 UK students who ought to have graduated this summer, 65,000 - 23 per cent - failed to do so, raising questions about the government's drive to encourage an even greater proportion of school-leavers into higher education. Although some of the students moved to other institutions or switched to sub-degree courses, the Higher Education Funding Council said about 50,000 - 17 per cent - dropped out altogether and had nothing worthwhile to show for the experience. The funding council identified 14 universities at which at least a quarter of the students - 10,000 in all - were failing year after year to obtain a qualification of any kind.
(Daily Telegraph, Independent, Guardian)

Universities told to look harder for poor students
The country's top universities must do more to "hunt out" bright, poor students, the government said yesterday as it pledged new measures to boost social access to higher education. Margaret Hodge, the higher education minister, accused some members of the elite Russell Group of universities of being stuck in "ivory towers". She said today's publication of data on social access showed clearly that bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds "do not have the opportunity they deserve". More than 100 universities failed significantly to improve the sector's performance under the three measures of social access set by the government.
(Financial Times, Times)

Bar Council chairman attacks top-up fees
The legal professions will become yet more dominated by white middle-class students if top-up fees are introduced, the new chairman of the Bar Council warned yesterday in a scathing attack on the government's education policy. Matthias Kelly, QC, said top-up fees would kick away the ladder for students from poorer backgrounds. "There will be a knock-on adverse impact on the social and ethnic make-up of all professions if such plans proceed, and I deplore that."
(Financial Times)

40% of students take paid work during term time
More British undergraduates than ever have part-time jobs. It is estimated that about 40 per cent of students work during term time. Sociologist Frank Furedi says there is no cause for alarm though - jobs will be the making of them.
(Daily telegraph)

More Britons choose a childless single life
Britain is turning into a nation of childless single women and losing its sense of a cohesive national identity, research has found. Figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics show that the proportion of single women of childbearing age (18 to 49) has doubled in the past 30 years, rising from 18 per cent in 1971. The latest General Household Survey also shows that the proportion of women of childbearing age who are married is at a record low of 50 per cent.

World has second warmest year on record
Meteorologists revealed yesterday that the world had measured its second warmest year since records began more than 140 years ago. Researchers from the Met Office blamed industrial and agricultural pollution for a 0.49 degree rise in 2002 above the average between 1961 and 1990. World maps of temperatures for the past 12 months show above-average figures in most regions, especially Eurasia. Forecasters said there was a 50 per cent chance that temperatures would rise again in 2003 because of the more pronounced effect of El Niño, which sweeps warm water currents across the Pacific Ocean and boosts rainfall.

The latest news service is taking a break over the festive period and will resume on 2 January 2003.

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