Today's news

January 17, 2003

Brown and Clarke clash over top-up fees
Cabinet ministers clashed yesterday over controversial plans to allow universities to charge top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year, which are expected to be announced next week. Gordon Brown is believed to have issued a blunt warning that proposals by Charles Clarke, the education secretary, could deter people from poor families from going to university. The chancellor made an attempt to keep open the option of a graduate tax, arguing that it would be fairer than Mr Clarke's plans for "deferred fees" to be paid after graduates' earnings hit a certain level. The row between the two ministers came at a heated meeting yesterday of the cabinet's domestic affairs committee, chaired by the deputy prime minister, John Prescott.
(Independent, Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times)

Lib Dems plan top-up free degrees
Students would be encouraged to study locally and made to compete to stay at university after their first two years, under plans being drawn up by the Liberal Democrats. The confidential document, prepared by the party's education spokesman, Phil Willis, proposes to bridge the gap by restricting initial access to higher education to a two-year foundation course. Students would receive a limited maintenance grant but only if they studied locally. Mr Willis estimates the home town study proposal could save the exchequer around £1 billion a year.

Clinton too busy for Oxford post
Mr Clinton's office in New York appears to have all but ruled the former president out of the running for the Oxford chancellorship, saying, "He is very busy with the work of his foundation and this is not something he's considering." Thus far the only candidate ready to put their name up, is Howard Marks, the convicted drug dealer. Unlike Mr Clinton, he did inhale at Oxford - in fact he got busted for it.

Number of university students at record level
More students are entering university than ever before despite concerns that fear of debt would dissuade them. Final details of the number of entrants accepted for degree courses last autumn, given in figures released today, show a 2.8 per cent rise on 2001 – bringing the total to a record high of 368,115. The rise in numbers is highest among mature students, with a 6.6 per cent increase in those over the age of 21. The number of applicants in England under 21 increased by only 1 per cent.

BBC turns on to Open University
The Open University is to make peak-time programmes for BBC1 as the corporation takes urgent action to increase its arts coverage. The university will produce the type of educational programmes that critics say have disappeared from prime-time BBC. The first Open University programme made for BBC1 peak-time viewing will be Deco: The Art of Glamour , which will examine the influence of the 1920s movement on the fashion, film, literature and architecture of the times.

New flight evolution theory
A researcher from the University of Montana in Missoula, has found evidence to back up his idea that the first feathered wings were designed to increase the traction between the animal's feet and the ground. The wings, rather than being used as aids for gliding or jumping through the air, are thought to have increased the grip of the dinosaur's feet on the ground. Scientists have tested the idea on running partridges, which frequently flap their wings frantically to run head-long up vertical surfaces. They believe their theory could explain the evolution of feathered flight.
(Independent, Times, Daily Telegraph)

Scientists discover new key to fertilisation
A new generation of infertility drugs and contraceptives could soon be developed after the discovery of a critical protein that allows human embryos to implant in the womb and mature. New research in the United States has revealed that a protein known as L-selectin, which forms on the embryo surface six days after fertilisation, works as a biological glue that anchors the tiny ball of cells to the walls of the uterus. Details of the research are published today in the journal Science .

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