Today's news

September 15, 2003

Clarke prepares changes to save top-up fee Bill
Ministers are considering proposals to ease the burden on poor students in a concession to MPs opposed to university top-up fees as they struggle to avert a humiliating defeat by Labour backbenchers. They are thought to be looking at plans to increase proposed levels of grants for poorer students or to raise the level of income at which graduates would start repaying their fees after leaving university.
(Independent, Times)

Police warn students of bank account scam
The City of London Police has warned universities that a criminal gang thought to include bank employees is targeting student bank accounts in a bid to launder millions of pounds of stolen cash. The fraudsters have focused on a number of universities including London-based Kingston. Targets are told their account is needed by businessmen who have yet to establish accounts in the UK. Hard-up students are usually offered a small cash "commission" for the service. Investigators are particularly concerned about the gang's activities after some female students suffered threats or sexual assault after trying to close the accounts.
(Daily Telegraph)

Strike exposes poverty behind scenes at Yale
The first lesson this semester at Yale, the prestigious US Ivy League university, is labour relations. Hundreds of Yale's clerical and technical workers have organised sit-ins for improved pay and conditions. With more than 200 professors moving their classes off campus at unions' request, lectures have taken place for the past fortnight in restaurants, front rooms, church halls and the city hall. "The university for a long part of its history has insulted and patronised working class New Haven," professor Douglas Rae, author of a soon-to-be published book about the city, told the New York Times.

Lord Chancellor to abandon visitor role
The lord chancellor is to embark on a fresh tranche of reforms stripping his office of its last ancient and historical powers of patronage. Lord Falconer of Thoroton intends to strip his office of the role of visitor to some 11 universities and 10 Oxbridge colleges, which involve him acting as a judge in disputes between universities and students.

Students get charity cash to blow on a good time
Five students have been awarded £750 each on condition they blow it all having fun. The Oldford Bequest, set up in 1963 using the legacy of tax collector Frank Oldford, hands out the money each year to students who promise to spend it on socialising rather than books or course material. This year's lucky five said they will use the cash on tap dancing lessons, hill walking and holidays.

Maths GCSE pass mark cut to avoid mass failure
Exam board Edexcel has admitted cutting this year's pass mark for GCSE maths to prevent a set of disastrous results. Thousands of candidates would have failed the subject or not achieved the benchmark "C" if the grades had been awarded in line with previous mark schemes, a senior examiner said.
(Daily Telegraph, Independent, Guardian)

Mycologists give British mushrooms monikers
Lemon Disco, Smoky Bracket, Elder Whitewash, Foxy Fibrecap and Witches' Butter are among the monikers chosen for 1,000 British mushroom and toadstool species that have until now only been known by their Latin names. There are nearly 20,000 species of fungi in the country, but only about 100 of them have had common names in English.

Happy marriages put wives in good heart
A happy marriage keeps heart disease and depression at bay for women aged 42 to 50, a study from the University of Pittsburgh, published in Health Psychology, claims.

Higher education stories from the weekend papers
Sunday Times: Why the Queen Mary school of medicine and dentistry has become the first college to choose medical students at random • York beats Cardiff, Exeter, Loughborough and Oxford Brookes to be The Sunday Times university of the year • Higher fees are the fairest way forward, writes Bristol v-c Eric Thomas • Start saving early, your child's university bill could be £60,000 • A new system of training doctors does not require top A-level grades • How the choice of chancellor reflects a university's popularity.
Observer: A leading psychologist at the University of California says a diet of fish can prevent teen violence.
Financial Times, Saturday: Top universities are impatient for top-up fee.
Independent, Saturday: Employers are offering to pay off graduate students' debts.
Guardian, Saturday: The National Union of Students has created  to help students track how their local MP has voted on tuition fees.

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