Today's news

September 10, 2003

Unions endorse motion against top-up fees
The Trades Union Congress endorsed a motion that is critical of plans to introduce university top-up fees, under which undergraduates could be charged up to £3,000 a year from 2006 to attend the best universities and courses. There was unanimous criticism of the policy in Brighton yesterday. The TUC statement asserted the union movement's "fundamental opposition" to top-up fees. "Students will end up owing vast sums of money when they graduate," it said. Chancellor Gordon Brown signalled there would be no retreat in the face of their demands.
(Financial Times, Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

Brighton v-c to seek flat-rate cost for tuition
Vice-chancellors will be asked tomorrow to back proposals that would increase tuition fees in England by a flat rate to £2,000 a year instead of allowing differential charges of up to £3,000 under the government's favoured option for so-called "top-up fees". Sir David Watson, vice-chancellor of the University of Brighton, will try to convince the Universities UK annual conference that a "quick move" to a market-based system with a £3,000 cap in 2006 would be unfair.
(Financial Times)

Cubie warns Scotland of research threat from south
Scotland's elite universities risk losing top-rated research departments south of the border if English institutions proceed with top-up fees, Andrew Cubie, chair of the court of Napier University and one of the architects of Scotland's distinct university funding system, warned yesterday. Mr Cubie warned that a flood of English students might head north as talented researchers took better-paid posts in the south - like "two buses passing".
(Financial Times)

Keep students away from my flat, pleads Cook
Former foreign secretary Robin Cook, an Edinburgh university alumni and well-known student activist, does not relish the prospect of living next door to students in Edinburgh's Merchiston Crescent. In a letter to the council's licensing committee, Mr Cook, who said he uses the flat to write, expressed concern that young people might disturb elderly tenants in the block.
(Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

Academic says stolen Leonardo is really a cheap copy
The thieves who thought they had stolen a Leonardo last month may instead have the work of a minor artist. Jacques Franck, a scholar of the Renaissance who is a consultant to the Armand Hammer Centre for Leonardo Studies at the University of California in Los Angeles, said that The Madonna of the Yarnwinder stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland could not be by Leonardo. He believes the painting may be worth £100,000, not £60 million. James Beck, professor of art history at Columbia University, and Frank Zollner, director of the Institute of Art History at Leipzig University, also expressed reservations.

Australian scientists save wingless wonder
More than 80 years after it was believed to have been wiped out and two years after a handful of survivors were found on a tiny ocean rock, jubilant entomologists at Melbourne Zoo have managed to hatch the egg of Dryococelus australis, the Lord Howe Island stick insect.

Dyslexics also poor at other mental skills
People with dyslexia and other learning difficulties are usually poor at other mental skills as well, according to a study of twins that is expected to reignite the debate over the meaning of intelligence according to Robert Plomin, deputy director of the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, in London.
(Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Times)

Housing estates could help wildlife
Keith Porter, English Nature's information manager, told the British Association festival of science in Salford yesterday that building homes, not farms would aid biodiversity. New estates could provide food, shelter and nesting places for farmland birds and butterflies no longer found on farmland.  
(Guardian, Financial Times, Times)

Other British Association festival stories
Gene defect offers clue to causes of autism (David Skruse, behavioural science professor at the Institute of Child Health, London) • Women in affluent societies face higher breast cancer risk (Tessa Pollard, biological anthropologist at Durham University)
(Financial Times, Times, Daily Telegraph)

Higher education letters
Rob Marris MP: Top-up fees fall short (Guardian) • Gap year myth of 'colonial tourism' (Times) • Britain's shortage of skilled engineers (Times)

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