Today's news

September 25, 2003

Scottish colleges fear brain drain south of border
The introduction of top-up fees at English universities threatens Scottish colleges with a brain drain in which their best academics could be lured south by the extra funding, Scotland's first minister has indicated. Having pledged not to introduce top-up fees in Scotland in this parliament, Jack McConnell has admitted that the route Westminster is likely to take over research funding will provide a challenge for Scotland. He opened up the prospect of a debate in Scotland on whether to follow England's plans to concentrate research funding on an elite group of universities.
(Financial Times)

MP attacks drive for more elite institutions
Britain has no need for more world-class universities and the drive to expand the top end of the sector is misguided, according to Damian Green, the Conservative Party's education spokesman. "We don't need five Cambridges, we already have one," Mr Green said. Mr Green dismissed policy initiatives made with reference to the American system, which was a relatively low-tax economy in which students and families could be expected to contribute more of their disposable income towards higher education.
(Financial Times)

Top Tories' policy snub to leader over top-up fees stance
MPs on the liberal wing of the Conservative Party are threatening to defy leader Iain Duncan Smith's "anti-university" policy over student top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year if he sticks to his plans to repeal the government's scheme entirely. Those threatening to vote for top-up fees include Michael Portillo,  Francis Maude, Robert Jackson and Stephen Dorrell.

Brain drain threatens GM crop research
Public antipathy towards genetically modified crops is driving Britain's leading plant scientists to seek greener pastures abroad, a leading scientist has warned. Chris Leaver, the head of plant science at Oxford University, said: "The way things are going, plant biotechnology is going to be stillborn here." Mark Tester, a senior lecturer in plant genomics at Cambridge University, has decided to quit Britain for Australia later this year. "Most of the industry has left already because of the bad atmosphere here," he says. Wayne Powell, deputy director of the Scottish Crop Research Institute and one of Britain's most acclaimed crop scientists, has also decided to emigrate to Australia in the next few months.

How stone age man ditched the fish diet
Ancient Britons 5,000 years ago suddenly abandoned a diet of high-protein fish and shellfish and adopted a more European taste for meat and carbohydrate-rich cereals, researchers report today. Michael Richards at the University of Bradford and colleagues from Belfast and Oxford report their findings in the journal Nature.

Other higher education items
Comment: How university admissions procedures are no longer untouchable. (Guardian) • Letter from Steven Schwartz, Brunel University vice-chancellor, on university entrance (Daily Telegraph) • Comment: Roland Levinsky, Plymouth vice-chancellor, says that Mr Clarke has got funding all wrong (Daily Telegraph) • Is the class of 2003 more hedonistic and hard-working than its parents' generation? (Daily Telegraph) • Comment: Off-Toff will cane pupils from good state schools (Times).

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