Today's news

May 12, 2003

Clarke denies attacking medieval historians
The education secretary, Charles Clarke, insisted today that he is not a scourge of historians as the row continued over his description of "medieval seekers after truth" who are "good to have as an adornment to our society". In a letter to the Guardian Mr Clarke denied that he attacked medieval history or historians and pledged his support for the subject and humanities in general. The Department for Education and Skills did not deny the remarks when they first emerged, but insisted that they had been taken out of context and that he was talking about the future of universities and the long-term funding implications.

Oxford dons new mantle of skulduggery in power battle
Oxford University is bracing itself for a second round of high-table skulduggery as candidates join battle to become the next vice-chancellor. The new election comes only months after Chris Patten was voted in as the university’s chancellor after a campaign distinguished by claims of trickery and cunning. The defeated camps are keen to avenge that defeat and are engaged in vigorous but discreet war to secure the £117,000-a-year post, although Mr Patten’s campaign manager is also in the running. Early favourites include Dame Fiona Caldicott, the university pro-vice chancellor and principal of Somerville College, and Michael Beloff, QC, president of Trinity College. Anthony Smith, president of Magdalen College, has also been touted, but he believes that, at 65, he is too old for the job.

USS puts managers' mettle to the test
Graeme Davies, chairman of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, explains how the trustees are backing long-term planning of the £20 billion fund.
(Financial Times)

Stubbs says A-level reforms could hurt top students
Sir William Stubbs, the former head of the government's exams watchdog, has launched a scathing attack on proposals for reforming GCSEs and A-levels. In his first interview since winning compensation for his sacking during last year's A-level grading row, the former chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority warns that replacing the A-level system with an English version of the international baccalaureate would run the risk of weakening the performance of high-flying pupils in their best subjects. Pupils would have to study six rather than three subjects in the last year of the sixth form.

Book lovers out Austen in pride of place
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has been voted the best-loved novel by a woman author. The results of the poll by Orange, which allowed men as well as women to vote, should bring much comfort to the thinking classes. The top eight best-loved novels by women published in English are the unchallenged classics of A-level studies and university literature courses. Only two books in the top 10 are by living authors: Unless by the Canadian writer Carol Shields,  in ninth place, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, comes tenth.
(Daily Telegraph, Independent)

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