Today's news

September 11, 2003

Top-ups are non-negotiable, says Johnson
Academics will sacrifice the chance of a decent pay rise if they fail to back the government over top-up fees, higher education minister Alan Johnson said this week. In his first major interview, Mr Johnson told The THES that the country faced a stark choice between raising the money necessary for expansion and pay through graduate top-up fees, or cutting investment in higher education and student places. Mr Johnson dismissed the idea of a flat-rate fee in place of the variable charging structure proposed by the government.
(THES, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph)
Read the full story in The THES.

Elite universities want higher tuition fees cap
Russell Group universities want the cap on tuition fees raised to £5,000 a year, it was revealed yesterday. They say they need to charge higher fees so that they can offer higher salaries to attract top academics. The controversial call is set to be discussed by vice-chancellors at the Universities UK annual conference at Warwick University today.
(Daily Mail)

£23m boost to keep best science brains
Science minister Lord Sainsbury has announced a £23 million fund to help universities keep their best scientists. There will be up to 200 new academic fellowships every year for the next three years. Every university will be able to submit one application per year for several fellowships.
(Financial Times)

Winston warns of risks to test-tube babies in later life
Babies conceived through some test-tube techniques could be at significantly higher risk of long-term health problems in later life than children conceived naturally, Lord Winston, professor of fertility studies at Imperial College in London, told the British Association festival of science at Salford University yesterday.
(Independent, Daily Telegraph)

Astronomers record Universe's lowest note
The lowest note ever heard in the universe, the deep roar of a supermassive black hole, has been caught by astronomers at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge. The sound waves were deduced, rather than actually heard, from ripples in the gas that fills the Perseus cluster 250 million light years away.

Chickens helped fire medieval cannon
Medieval gunpowder packed more of a punch than scientists thought, according to a project to recreate the explosive using dung pits under a chicken house, foot stomping and wood ash. Researchers at the Royal Armouries in Leeds were astonished by the explosive results of a 10-year collaboration with European colleagues to recreate 14th century gunpowder recipes.
(Daily Telegraph)

Bones of giant birds pose mating mystery
A study of the fossilised bones of a giant bird which died out about 800 years ago has revealed that the female was three times the size of the male. Alan Cooper, director of Oxford University's Ancient Biomolecules Centre, said the findings were unexpected because it was widely thought that large, small and medium-sized moa belonged to separate species that did not interbreed. The DNA study is published today in the journal Nature.

Doctors to study 'out-of-body' experiences
Doctors are to investigate whether "out-of-body" experiences, in which people claim to have observed events while they are clinically dead, can be scientifically demonstrated. Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist, is seeking co-operation from 25 hospitals and patients who suffer cardiac arrests in which their heart stops for longer than 11 seconds.
(Independent, Daily Telegraph)

Other higher education stories
A look at the options open to reformers planning to make university admissions fairer
(Independent) • Kingston University is launching an MA course in political communication, advocacy and campaigning (Daily Telegraph).

Higher education letters
Alan Johnson writes on university admissions (Times) • Letter accusing Hefce of abdicating responsibility (Independent).

Edward Teller, infamous father of the hydrogen bomb has died, aged 95 (Independent, Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph) • T.E. Allibone, a leader in British fusion research who worked with Rutherford, has died aged 99. (Independent)

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