Today's news

February 11, 2003

Universities to levy fees before access deal
All Britain's top universities are expected to get the go-ahead to levy variable fees from 2006, it emerged last night, despite the government's commitment to linking the right to charge higher fees with action to improve access for poorer students. Margaret Hodge, the higher education minister, confirmed that there would not be time for the new regulator to judge how effective a university's access policies were before the first funding decisions were made. Ms Hodge, answering questions from critical Labour members on the cross-party education committee, admitted that her department had no fixed figure for the funding gap, to be covered by the combination of higher government spending and the right to levy fees.

Funding crisis plunges universities into debt
Sixty universities and colleges - accounting for nearly half of the higher education sector in England - are predicting operating deficits by the end of the financial year. A report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England says that hitting targets for student recruitment and above-inflation pay deals for lecturers are contributing to the problems. (Independent)

Cambridge told to sort out its admin
Internecine quarrelling continues at Cambridge University after dons rebuffed the administration's proposals to reform the institution and increase the powers of the vice-chancellor. Ministers, infuriated by what they see as the failure of "the best university in Europe" to sort itself out, have threatened to withhold recognition of Cambridge as one of a handful of elite research institutions - a move that would threaten its funding. In an effort to lower the fevered temperature, senior academics will tomorrow call for a commission, chaired by a senior figure from outside the university, to draw up reform proposals that would command wide support.

Colleges take on Ofsted
Colleges are challenging the unfavourable verdict on further education in the latest Ofsted annual report and are accusing the chief inspector, David Bell, of muddled logic. The headline conclusion highlighted by Bell - that one in five colleges inspected last year were inadequate and would be in special measures if they were schools - wasnot borne out by Ofsted's own findings, according to the Association of Colleges.

King of Stonehenge was Swiss immigrant
The Amesbury Archer, a Bronze-Age man who was buried near Stonehenge in the richest grave from the period found in Britain, was an immigrant from the Swiss Alps, archaeologists have discovered. Chemical analysis of his teeth and bones revealed that he spent his youth living in the mountains of Central Europe, modern-day Switzerland was his most likely home.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

Gender specifics
A survey of Cambridge University students to be published tomorrow shows that the way women approach their studies damages their chances when it comes to exams.

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