Today's news

January 24, 2003

Competition could spawn superversities
Competition for students and research funding could force more universities into mergers as a result of the government's higher education reforms according to Alan Smithers, head of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Liverpool University. "When it's a matter of survival the logic of merger will concentrate the minds of some of the weaker universities," he said. Universities that already struggle to recruit students will find it hard to ease financial problems by raising tuition charges. Some could seek mergers to create a bigger pool of students while reducing costs. Others could seek partners to create "superversities" providing the best research facilities and enjoying fee income from up to 25,000 students.

CVs could decide university places
Pupils will win places at universities on the basis of a US-style "portfolio" of personal data rather than just their A-level results under guidelines set to be supported by the universities' new access regulator. Exam results will be put in context by comparison with those of other pupils at the applicant's school, their home situation, and whether they have to do part-time work. Intelligence tests, reports from teachers and former employers, outlines of voluntary work and special abilities in music, sport or other skills may also be included. Charles Clarke, education secretary, is understood to have been "strongly persuaded" of the need for the changes by a letter before Christmas from David VandeLinde, the vice-chancellor of Warwick University.
(Financial Times)

Williams shuns Oxford in fees protest
Shirley Williams last night pulled out of the election for the vacant chancellorship of Oxford University in protest at the government's policy on top-up fees for students.  Lady Williams, a former Labour education secretary who broke with her party to form the SDP, explained that she would find herself "with an irreconcilable conflict of interest" at a time when prestigious universities such as Oxford would be pressing for higher fees, she denounced the policy shift as a threat to "the precious heritage of academic freedom and equality of opportunity".
(Guardian, Independent)

Jenkins bequeaths PR to Oxford
Roy Jenkins's lifelong dream of electoral reform in England is to be fulfilled, weeks after his death. But it will not be MPs who are chosen by single transferable vote; it will be his own successor as chancellor of Oxford University. Oxford is preparing to scrap first-past-the-post for the election to be held on March 14 and 15. Had the university switched earlier, Jenkins might well have been denied the post in 1987, since he won by splitting the so-called Tory vote between the historian Lord Blake and Edward Heath.

FE colleges call off strike
College lecturers have agreed to cancel next week's one-day strike as talks resume with employers, it emerged today. Ivor Jones, director of employment policy at the Association of Colleges, which represents more than 300 colleges, said there had been "constructive" talks with the unions, and that the action planned for January 30 had been called off.

Furedi tears apart state's self-esteem
Leading sociologist Frank Furedi has attacked the Government for belittling personal responsibility with its mantra of low self-esteem. He argues that far from solving social problems, the culture of low self-esteem is making them worse, by forcing individuals and communities into a state of increasing dependency upon others to make them feel good about themselves before they can function properly.

Cambridge students on song
Days after Margaret Hodge, the education minister, accused some higher educational establishments of being too frivolous, Cambridge University is launching its very own Pop Idol competition, breathlessly titled Cambridge PopSuperstars ("30 Colleges. One Winner. Your chance to be a star"). Judges include Bronwyn Parry, dean of King’s College. Heats take place next week in college bars across the town.

Haydn's lost libretti turn up in bookshop
About 40 libretti of operas by Joseph Haydn that were lost during the second world war have been rediscovered in a second-hand bookshop in Budapest. They include books produced for performances at the palace of the Esterhazy family where Haydn was court musician for 30 years. Historians had long believed that the items had been destroyed when shelling by Soviet forces levelled the Buda Palace library, where they had been stored.

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