Today's news

September 30, 2003

Universities face £1.6bn bill despite top-up fees
Plans to introduce higher tuition fees would still leave universities short of more than £1.6 billion a year in funding by 2010, The Higher Education Policy Institute, an independent think-tank, has calculated. The figure is the cost to ministers of paying the fees upfront over a period in which 250,000 extra students are expected to go into higher education. The Treasury has not pledged this extra amount to universities, meaning they may have to find it from existing budgets. Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the institute, said: "If I were a poor student, I wouldn’t be at all comfortable about going to university at the moment because of these very strident voices telling me that I would be in debt."
(Times, Guardian, Daily Express)

Fees guaranteed not to rise above inflation before 2009
Education Secretary Charles Clarke has guaranteed the £3,000-a-year limit on tuition fees will not be raised by more than inflation before the general election after next - expected in 2009. Critics are convinced that after that, the ceiling will be removed.
(Daily Express)

Clarke to defend top-up fees
Campaigners against university top-up fees will be told today that toddlers are a greater priority than undergraduates. Charles Clarke is expected to stand by plans for variable tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year in a speech that will come as a further blow to opponents who have already failed to secure a conference debate on the topic.

Fundraising is no magic bullet, says new Cambridge chief
Fundraising and philanthropy will not be a "magic bullet" to solve the urgent financial problems of top universities, the new vice-chancellor of Cambridge has warned. Alison Richard, who takes over tomorrow, said that even in the US where endowments are central to Ivy League finance, they were only part of the solution. A government taskforce under Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of Bristol University, is investigating how significant endowments and alumni gifts could be in bringing more money into the university sector.
(Financial Times)

Durham votes on axeing faculties
Durham University Council will vote today on whether to close a series of small departments to divert funds to subjects attracting the highest research grants. Despite a high-profile campaign to save undergraduate degree level courses in Japanese and Chinese, Durham looks likely to approve the closures, including that of the East Asian Studies department. Durham's Senate, the ruling academic body, voted yesterday for the closures by 44 votes to 16 with three abstentions. The university is the first to respond to the government's policy of concentrating money on large, successful departments.
(Daily Telegraph, Guardian)

First for Cambridge macebearer
Cambridge University has appointed a woman macebearer for the first time in 700 years. Nicola Rogers, who edits the university website, will be formally known as Esquire Bedell and will make her debut tomorrow.

Heads call for three-year sixth forms
Pupils should take GCSEs a year early and spend three years in the sixth form, say a group of head teachers. All students would spend the last year of compulsory schooling in the sixth form under the proposal from the Leadership Network, a group of 160 heads which acts as a think-tank.
(Daily Telegraph)

Ready for a new entente cordiale?
The British minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, and the French minister for Europe, Noëlle Lenoir, are to hold a series of joint meetings at British and French universities. They will be inviting questions from students to try to correct some of the noxious misunderstandings between, and about, the two countries in recent months.

Hungry boys fare better at school
Girls do better at school on a high-protein breakfast while boys seem to do better  when they are slightly hungry, according to a University of Ulster study. Children were asked to eat a breakfast of beans on toast or toast alone and then given tests. The study, backed by Heinz, found both sexes did better after beans on toast.
(Daily Telegraph, Times, Guardian)

Other higher education items
Wrong diagnosis? Dismay at plans to transfer doctors' training to the NHS (Guardian) • Following the fortunes of three first-year university students (Guardian) • Letter: you are better off with a university degree eventually (Independent) • Report on neuroeconomics research (Financial Times).

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