Today's news

May 22, 2003

Higher education minister snubs new universities
If potential students "thought and acted rationally" they would not bother going to one of the 33 "new" universities Margaret Hodge, the minister for higher education, said yesterday. She was commenting on a government-funded study of the relative benefits of attending different types of institution. This suggested that a man who went to a Russell Group university would earn up to £22,000 more over a lifetime than he would if he went to a "new" one. A woman would earn about £15,000 more. Addressing an invited audience of vice-chancellors, peers and politicians in Downing Street, Ms Hodge said: "By asking everyone to pay the same tuition fee regardless of the university they go to we have been implying that the benefits of every university are the same. They are not. By enabling universities to charge differential fees we are lifting the wool from people's eyes, recognising difference, diversity and the premium that some universities give you over others."
(Daily Telegraph, Times)

Government ready to act against top-up fees cartels
Ministers are prepared to intervene in the new market for student places if most universities insist on charging a maximum £3,000 fee when the top-up system begins in 2006. Margaret Hodge, the higher education minister, said yesterday: "Price is a key determinant of the market and if they try to cartelise by price then we would be free to look at things like the supply of places." Charles Clarke, the education secretary, has hinted that the Office of Fair Trading might be called in if all universities levied a maximum tuition fee under the new regime.
(Financial Times)

East London campus closure sparks concern
The University of East London is being warned that plans to close its Barking campus could force some of its poorest students to drop out. The university wants to close its Longbridge Road campus and transfer the majority of its activities to its new Docklands campus by September 2005. It will retain a stake in a new local college in Barking. But, following complaints from constituents, the Green Party MEP for London, Jean Lambert, has written to the university demanding its assurance that the move will not disadvantage students who will have to pay more to travel to the new campus.

Bomb blast causes panic at Yale law school
An explosion apparently caused by a bomb ripped through a classroom wall at Yale University law school yesterday, causing panic among students a day after the White House issued a domestic terrorism warning. No one was hurt in the blast at 4.40pm and MSNBC news network quoted a law enforcement official as saying that terrorism was not suspected.

Scholarships benefit endangered species
The first five winners of a scholarship programme run by the environment department have been announced. The Darwin Initiative has spent £30 million on 300 biodiversity conservation projects in developing countries since 1993. The five winners, conservationists from Kenya, Gabon, Colombia, Ecuador and Ethiopia, will spend a year in UK universities developing projects ranging from researching forest elephants in Gabon to protecting endangered plants on the Galapagos Islands.
(Financial Times)

Student warning to new Scottish minister
Students in Scotland today warned the new Scottish minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, Jim Wallace, of the "big task" he faces in his new role. Although a popular figure among students for pushing through the abolition of tuition fees, Mr Wallace will need to be seen to stand up to any Scottish university that may feel tempted by top-up fees, which are being proposed in England.

How Buddhists put a smile on their faces
Researchers in America have found that a spot in the brain called the left prefrontal lobe, which is associated with positive emotions and good moods, is unusually active among practising Buddhists. A researcher at the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, made the discovery after scanning the brains of committed Buddhists. Writing in New Scientist, a professor of philosophy at Duke University in North Carolina, said the results were "tantalising". He said that he did not think it reasonable to suppose that Tibetan Buddhists were born with a "happiness gene" that activated their left prefrontal lobes. A more likely explanation was there was something about Buddhist practice that produced happiness.
(Daily Telegraph, Independent)

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