Today's news

February 13, 2003

£3,000 top-up fees are just the start
Universities UK made clear yesterday that the £3,000-a-year fee will be just the starting point for charges. The universities had told the government they needed an extra £9.9 billion to offset two decades of cuts in higher education funding under the Tories. They said there was also a substantial funding gap to be filled between 2006, when they will be allowed to charge top-up fees, and when students repay them after graduation. Vice-chancellors also warned that the chances of a three-year "catch-up" pay deal for academics were in jeopardy, despite Tony Blair's statement that university lecturers were "probably the worst-paid workers in the public sector". They said that too much of the extra £3.74 billion was earmarked for specific projects such as capital spending or research funding for there to be enough left to finance a pay settlement above the level of inflation.
(Independent)

Archbishop touted to join Oxford race
A new figure has been approached to join the race to replace Lord Jenkins of Hillhead as chancellor of Oxford University - the Cambridge-educated Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. The archbishop has not ruled out throwing his mitre into the ring. Laurence Target, a Magdalen-educated solicitor, is trying to drum up support for Dr Williams, and is confident that he will secure the 50 necessary signatures. There is a precedent for appointing a cleric to the role; in 1224 the first chancellor was Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln.
(Times)

Town of temples uncovered in Egypt
British archaeologists have discovered an ancient Egyptian town and a series of temples and tombs that lead to a shrine dedicated to a sacred bull. The town, dating to around 600BC to 100BC and described as a kind of Egyptian Lourdes, was probably home to priests and builders working on nearby pyramids, where pharaohs from the ancient city of Memphis were buried. However, because of the British team's £10,000 annual budget it is believed that only American, German and French archaeologists will have the resources to excavate the extraordinary find in the desert.
(Daily Telegraph)

Academic reveals kisses are right first time
In a study published on the eve of Valentine’s Day a professor of biopsychology at the Ruhr University of Bochum has discovered that most couples tend to turn their heads to the right for a passionate kiss. He found that twice as many tilted their heads to the right as to the left before planting the first kiss. The ratio for right-sided kissing, of about two to one, is almost exactly the same as that by which human beings favour the right foot, ear or eye. The results of the study are published today in the journal Nature .
(Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Guardian)

Universe is precisely 13.7bn years old
Scientists yesterday hailed what they said was the first clear picture of the birth of the universe. The image, taken from a Nasa probe 1 million miles from Earth, shows the cosmos as it was 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Researchers at the US space agency say the images show the universe is precisely 13.7 billion years old and that stars started forming only 200 million years ago.
(Independent, Daily Telegraph)

A little poison can be good for you
For 30 years, toxicologists have assumed a simple relationship between the dose of a toxin and its effect: double the dose and the effect is doubled. Not so, according to researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who report today in Nature that dose-effect relationships are usually represented by a U-shaped curve. Tiny quantities of a toxin can even be beneficial before increasing in harmful impact.
(Daily Telegraph)

Hey, Mickey, you're so fine…
When Margaret Hodge, the higher education minister, warned students to steer clear of 'Mickey Mouse' courses the universities were furious. So why are vocational courses so sought after?
(Independent)

Entente not cordiale
Are unwelcoming continental universities to blame for the dwindling numbers of British students going on Erasmus exchange programmes?
(Independent)

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