Today's news

January 14, 2003

Mickey mouse course jibe angers students
Higher education minister Margaret Hodge warned yesterday that the government's targets for extra university places must not be met by increasing the numbers on "mickey mouse" courses. Speaking at a seminar organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research in London, Ms Hodge tried to reassure traditionalists, but angered the National Union of Students, by condemning unnamed courses which she said had little intellectual content and were not related to employment needs. She promised that most of the expansion in higher education would come from an increase in new vocational-based foundation degrees, two-year courses below the level of traditional bachelor's degrees, now being studied by 15,000 students. She said she could see some universities teaching only vocational subjects.
(Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Financial Times)

Dearing: charge everyone fees and restore grants
All students, including the poorest, should pay to study for a degree, the architect of university tuition charges said yesterday. Lord Dearing said fees should be charged across the board, but students should be allowed to defer payment until after graduation. Grants should also be restored for the poorest to help them with living costs during their studies. He spoke as Margaret Hodge, the higher education minister, indicated that the government could impose financial penalties on universities with the worst dropout rates.

Let the students choose, say Fabians
Students should be offered a range of options on paying tuition costs under the government's proposed graduate contributions scheme, according to a forthcoming article by Lambeth Labour Councillor Sally Prentice, in the influential Fabian Review . She argues that the government is making its job harder by trying to devise a "one-size-fits-all" solution to student funding.

Comet mission that could save Earth
European scientists are about to launch a £640 million unmanned spacecraft to intercept and land on a comet. Rosetta , named after the stone that provided the key to the mystery of ancient Egypt, will travel 4 billion miles to the far edges of our solar system before catching up with the comet Wirtanen and launching a robotic lander onto its surface. It is hoped that the mission will help unlock the secrets of the universe and provide data that could prove crucial to defending the Earth from the kind of celestial collision that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
(Daily Mail, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Times)

Scientists say it's the beginning of the end
The end of the world is still 7.5 billion years away, according to research by American scientists, but the process of destruction has begun. A new book by David Brownlee and Peter Ward, of the University of Washington, compares the Earth's existence to a single 12-hour period. The clock, which started ticking at midnight, has reached 4.30am. By 5am, or in another 500 million years, animals and plants will cease to thrive. The oceans will vaporise at 8am and, at noon, the expanding Sun will engulf the planet and melt away any evidence that it ever existed.

Horse and carriage?
Geoffrey Alderman, vice-president of American InterContinental University, London and Tom Wilson, head of Natfhe's universities department, put the cases for and against divorcing research and teaching.

Castle leaves love letters to the Bodleian
Love letters from the 1930s and other personal and literary papers written by Barbara Castle, who died last year aged 91, were delivered to the Bodleian Library at the weekend. Thousands of documents had previously been stored at her Buckinghamshire home. Amongst others, the archive will reveal the private thoughts of Castle on the late Harold Wilson, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff and her lover William Mellor, the editor of the Daily Herald and founder of Tribune .

Playing the donor card
American universities have long been masters at the art of extracting money from their alumni. But it wasn't until 2000, when chancellor Gordon Brown liberalised the tax treatment of charitable gifts, that many British institutions began to take fundraising seriously. The Guardian reports on how British universities are catching on to the "endowment culture" and the lessons that can be learned from American methods.

Clinton for Oxford chancellor
"Imagine the glamour conferred on the university by the nost charismatic politician of the age." Philip Hensher argues why Oxford needs a womanising chancellor.

Men today are such smoothies
Research conducted by Nottingham Trent University shows that increasing numbers of men are waxing their legs and having their eyebrows plucked as attitudes to body hair change. Hair is traditionally seen as dirty and   gay culture, widespread gym membership and sports such as bodybuilding and cycling have made shaving body hair more popular with men.
(Daily Mail)

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