Today's news

January 8, 2003

Clarke may scrap upfront tuition fees
Compulsory upfront tuition fees appear to be on the way out after Charles Clarke, the education secretary, said yesterday that the new system of university funding to be unveiled this month would involve students paying towards the cost of their courses after they graduate. Students are likely to be given a choice whether they pay their fees before or after graduation, when the government's long-awaited blueprint for the future of higher education appears. The Department for Education insisted the remarks went no further than the prime minister's pledge last month that students would not pay thousands of pounds in top-up fees before they finish their courses. But on the face of it, they do, suggesting the government is considering scrapping - or phasing out - the upfront tuition fee of up to £1,100 a year currently paid by students.
(Guardian, Times, Financial Times, Independent, Daily Mail)

Students awarded more top degrees
The proportion of first and upper-second class degrees awarded by universities has risen by an unprecedented 10 per cent over the past five years, according to statistics published yesterday. Of last year's graduates, a record 56 per cent were awarded a first or upper second, up from 51 per cent in 1998. In part, the increase reflects "customer pressure" on universities to award more "good" degrees, which affect graduates' chances of obtaining a job. Also, individual departments in academically selective universities have been repeatedly urged by the Quality Assurance Agency to award a larger proportion of firsts and upper seconds so as to keep up with their less selective peers. Although a higher proportion of women gained good degrees - 60 per cent, compared with 52 per cent of men - a higher proportion of men secured a first: 10.4 per cent, compared with 9.4 per cent of women.
(Daily Telegraph)

Breast cancer drug may be infertility cure
The breast-cancer drug tamoxifen may also help patients left infertile by their treatment to have children, scientists have discovered. Researchers at Cornell University in New York have shown that the drug, which has transformed breast-cancer therapy over the past two decades, is also a strong ovarian stimulant, making it a powerful aid to in vitro fertilisation.

Welsh win UK lucky dip
Fortune does not just favour the brave, it also favours the Welsh. In the national luck league, folk west of Offa's Dyke emerge as the winners, according to research published today. A psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, has surveyed 14,000 residents in Britain and 100,000 from 10 other countries since 1994 to pinpoint the role of chance in human lives. Luck, he hypothesised, boils down to attitude. Unexpectedly, the English regard themselves as less fortunate than the Northern Irish, or the Welsh. Overall, the British come bottom of the European luck league table, losing badly to the French and the Germans.

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