Today's news

September 16, 2003

Help for poor may stop top-up fees revolt
Leading universities will be forced to fund bursaries for poorer students from a £300 million annual levy imposed by ministers on their income from top-up tuition fees. The measure will infuriate vice-chancellors because it would account for more than a third of the money universities hope to earn from the introduction of tuition fees from 2006. The government hopes that the plan for "redistributing" income will head off the prospect of a revolt by Labour MPs on the bitterly contested higher education reforms. The Office For Fair Access, which is to begin monitoring university admissions next year, will insist on formal agreements on bursary schemes for students from poorer backgrounds before allowing top-up fees to be charged.

Universities to be offered US-style admission tools
The taskforce on admissions, set up by the government in its recent white paper, is due to publish an outline of issues for consultation next week. The review will look at US-style scholastic aptitude tests as a means to identify students with potential who may have underperformed at schools with poor records. An official close to the taskforce said: "Most admissions officers at selective universities prefer to use a multi-variate approach because no one believes that there is a single gold standard measure." Admitting students to university rather than individual courses and admitting a set ratio of students from each school by class placing or rank will also be considered.
(Financial Times)

MPs to attack universities for ignoring terrorism safeguards
Universities are failing to work together to safeguard against terrorist threats, an inquiry by the Commons science and technology committee has found. The final report of the committee's inquiry into the scientific response to terrorism, which is due to be published next month, looks set to call for a unified focus on security across universities. The committee has heard that the existing scheme for vetting foreign researchers is not working, and many UK researchers have yet to wake up to potential hazards.

Better screening to cut cancer death rates
Death rates from four of the most feared cancers - breast, cervical, bowel and prostate - will fall during the next 10 years because of improved national screening, Alex Markham, the new head of Cancer Research UK said yesterday. Professor Markham announced a £1 million expansion of a trial designed to find out whether prostate cancer screening saves lives and predicted that the number of cancer survivors would rise to half a million within a decade.
(Daily Telegraph)

Undercover professor reveals sleeping secrets
A scientist claims to have discovered a direct link between people's favourite sleeping position and their personality. Chris Idzikowski, a leading sleep expert, has identified six different positions that say more about a person's character than they may care to reveal. He carried out the research for the hotel group Travel Inn.
(Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail)

Other higher education stories
Labour MP Ian Gibson writes on spreading the burden of higher education costs
(Guardian) • The New Zealand experience shows that tuition fees work (Guardian) •
Colin Pillinger, head scientist for the European Space Agency's 'Beagle2' mission to Mars, comments on how to combat public antipathy to science (Independent) • Why college libraries are in short supply (Guardian) • College lecturers feel unable to complain about bullying (Guardian).

Michael Maclagan, the Trinity College Oxford historian and herald renowned for the elegance of his appearance and the breadth of his scholarship, has died aged 89. (Daily Telegraph) • Mary, Viscountess Eccles, Anglophile scholar and benefactor who amassed the world's finest collection of 18th-century English literature, has died, aged 91. (Guardian)

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