Today's news

November 25, 2003

BL helps Amazon storm antiquarian book market

The online retailer Amazon has dragged the buying and selling of rare and out-of-print books into the dotcom age by acquiring the rights to the British Library's unique back catalogue, giving Amazon the right to access data on 2.55 million books. The bibliographic catalogue includes 1.7 million books produced before the introduction of the International Standard Book Number in 1970. Amazon will open a new online market where buyers and sellers can strike deals for some of the world's most expensive literary creations.
( Independent )

Colleges 'left in dark' on discrimination law
Universities are demanding guidance from the government on new anti-discrimination legislation amid concerns that they may need to provide prayer rooms, avoid holding exams on any religious festivals, and deal in a religiously sensitive way with the bodies of students who die on campus. The lecturer's union Natfhe today warns that colleges and universities are unprepared for the new laws outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or religious belief, that come into force next month.
( Guardian )

New universities issue fees warning
The government today faces a fresh assault on its plan for top-up fees amid warnings that new universities are as ready to charge full fees as their more prestigious counterparts. In the wake of calls yesterday by five top research universities for the right to charge and keep the full £3,000 fee, new university vice-chancellors today make clear that they are also prepared to levy the maximum sum if the proposal, to be announced in tomorrow's Queen's Speech, survives wide opposition among MPs.
( Guardian, Times, Independent )

Responses to universities' stance on top-up fees

  • G. R. Evans, Professor of Medieval Theology and Intellectual History, University of Cambridge: "Many dons in Cambridge are strongly against the idea of top-up fees, and will not have been pleased to switch on their radios or open their Times this morning (November 24) to hear that their university has made up its mind. We have not been asked for our view." ( Times )
  • Libby Purves: "I like to see university vice-chancellors turning nasty. They should do it more often. They have more clout than they realise, and probably more instinctive support from the public - which is sophisticated enough to spot that the denizens of academic towers are generally less well-padded, less self-interested and more honest than the political cadre. Yesterday's letter to The Times from an eminent gang represented a useful shot across the bows of government in the run-up to the backbench revolt over tuition fees." ( Times )
  • Julian Brazier, MP for Canterbury (Conservative): "For the vice-chancellors to suggest in your columns that raising tuition fees should start to restore financial health to our universities involves a non sequitur; the annual return from top-up fees will be less than the cost of the new places in the current expansion of higher education."
    ( Times )
Cambridge women's prerogative
Newnham College, Cambridge, the militant girls-only college that nurtured Germaine Greer, may open its doors to men at last. There is talk of a vote by students after pressure from activists who think that single-sex education is outdated. The vote comes after St Hilda's, Oxford, voted this year to keep men at bay.
( Times )

Alliance of top medics urges public smoking ban
A ban on smoking in public is demanded today by an alliance of medical experts. The unprecedented attack on government health policy comes from the leaders of all 13 Royal Colleges of Medicine and is a direct challenge to the current voluntary code to control exposure to smoke. Health professionals believe that the government's anti-smoking policy is no longer effective, with the most recent official figures showing that the number of people who smoke has remained constant at per cent since 1998.
( Times )

Sea urchin lives longer than scientists thought
Scientists have discovered that the red sea urchin, which live in shallow waters off America's west coast, can live for 200 years. Scientists thought the urchin lived for 10 or 15 years until marine biologists at Oregon State University measured their levels of radiocarbon 14, an element that increased significantly in all living organisms after the atmospheric A-bomb tests of the 1950s.
( Independent )

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