Today's news

May 14, 2003

Students welcome Tory plan to abolish fees
Tory plans to scrap tuition fees won a rare thumbs-up from the National Union of Students yesterday, but left vice-chancellors nervous about an agenda that they fear will mean less money for stretched universities. "The Conservative Party has correctly identified just how unpopular tuition fees have been and the catastrophic effect that top-up fees would have," said Penny Hollings, national secretary of the NUS, predicting that a rebellion by Labour MPs would see the government struggle to get its plans to charge top-up fees of up to £3,000 through the Commons.

Academic publisher in science sell-off
Bertelsmann, the heavily indebted German media group, yesterday raised much needed cash by selling its scientific publishing business to two British venture capital groups for €1.05 billion (£780 million). The transaction will lead to the creation of the world's second biggest academic publisher. Buyout firms Cinven and Candover plan to merge the BertelsmannSpringer publishing unit with KAP, an academic publisher they acquired last year from Wolters Kluwer. The investors believe that by making BertelsmannSpringer's 70 titles available to subscribers over the internet they can attract more customers and cut delivery costs.
(Guardian, Financial Times)

GCSE exam hastily rewritten after paper theft
More than 1.5 million GCSE papers that were due to be taken by students this month are being rewritten at the last minute after the theft of a Parcelforce van that was carrying a batch of copies. The stolen English and English literature papers from the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance have been distributed around the West Midlands. The hasty printing of new papers affects more than 500,000 pupils - three-quarters of all candidates in the subjects.

Cambridge students to take chat-up challenge
Students at Cambridge University are being given the chance to find a boyfriend or girlfriend in three minutes through Britain's first campus "speed dating" event. An initial group of 60 has signed up to the "Varsity Dates" service set up by three engineering undergraduates. Speed dating began in California two years ago and involves about 30 people of each sex meeting at a bar. If the event is a success it could be extended to Oxford and London universities.
(Daily Telegraph)

English Heritage saves Stone Age picnic site
Beneath the stony surface of a disused quarry is Britain's most valuable Stone Age site, where Boxgrove Man, the earliest known Briton, went to hunt, butcher and devour rhinoceroses, deer and horses. English Heritage announced yesterday that it had bought the gravel pit close to Boxgrove, West Sussex, for £100,000, a move that would allow its preservation, and let archaeologists explore its secrets.
(Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail)

Research throws new light on Lindisfarne manuscript
The British Library's curator of illuminated manuscripts has revealed the intriguing likelihood that two of the greatest masterpieces of the medieval world, the Lindisfarne Gospels and Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, were written not only at the same time but by monks sitting next to each other. The disclosure, based on close examination of the Lindisfarne manuscript, comes as the gospels go on show at a new exhibition from Friday at the British Library in London.

Q & A on  DNA
It is 50 years since the discovery of the DNA double helix, which led to DNA fingerprinting, GM foods and cloning. Sir Paul Nurse, the Nobel prizewinner and cancer researcher, answers readers questions in the first of a two-part series. Tomorrow's batch of questions will be answered by Professor Kay Davies, a genetic researcher into neuro disease, and Profwssor Nick Hastie, director of the Medical Research Council’s Human Genetics Unit.

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