Today's news

May 9, 2003

Clarke dismisses medieval historians
Education secretary Charles Clarke has again attacked learning for learning's sake by saying that the public purse should not fund "ornamental" subjects such as medieval history. Mr Clarke told a gathering at University College Worcester that he believed the state should pay only for higher education that had a "clear usefulness". This follows his earlier comments that studying classics is a waste of time.
(THES, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Times)
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Make deal to halt fees rebellion, Clarke told
Education secretary Charles Clarke is being urged by colleagues to make concessions on the timing of university tuition fees to prevent another backbench rebellion on domestic issues. A bill on the funding of higher education is due to be published late next month, and is expected to allow universities to charge "top-up" fees of up to £3,000 a year from 2006. Mr Clarke is being pressed to bring forward the new system, under which fees are deferred until after graduation, to this autumn. That would make it easier for Labour MPs to sell the introduction of fees at the doorstep in a general election now expected in 2005. The government is reintroducing grants in September 2004, but only for a small number of students whose parents earn £9,000 or less.

Monkeying about can't recreate Shakespeare
The 20-year-old adage that if you give an infinite number of monkeys typewriters they will eventually write the work of Shakespeare has been proven wrong. The Arts Council gave lecturers and students from Plymouth University's media course a £2,000 grant so that they could lend a computer to six macaques at Paignton Zoo to measure their literary output. One month later, and after initially trying to destroy the computer, the macaques produced five pages of text, primarily consisting of the letter "s".
(Independent, Guardian)

More couch potatoes in leisure age
The rise of modern leisure in Britain means more time and money is spent "playing" than ever before, a study published in the journal Cultural Trends has claimed. But the increase in "dumbed-down" pursuits has happened at the expense of reading and conversation, which were more stimulating to the mind, the author James Woudhuysen, professor of forecasting and innovation at De Montfort University, said.
(Daily Telegraph)

Bionic video eyes help blind people see again
A bionic eye that can restore sight to the blind has been successfully tested on human patients, scientists announced yesterday. The revolutionary implant, which has been fitted to three blind people in the United States, has enabled them to detect light and motion, to count objects and even to distinguish between different shapes. The breakthrough, by the University of Southern California and the technology company Second Sight, offers new hope to millions of people around the world who have lost their vision to degenerative eye diseases.

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