Today's news

November 27, 2003

Clarke digs in for universities battle

Charles Clarke defended as vital yesterday his reform of tuition fees in the face of mounting opposition to allowing universities to charge variable rates. The education secretary launched a robust defence of the higher education bill as opponents claimed that more than 120 Labour MPs' names would appear on a critical Commons motion today. Just 82 Labour rebels are needed to vote against the government to defeat a bill if every MP from the other parties also votes against, although a handful of Conservatives may vote with the government or abstain.
( Times, Guardian )

Top-up fees bill may leave little time for compromise
The higher education bill was given top priority in the Queen's speech yesterday, signalling ministers' determination to see the policy to allow fees of up to £3,000 a year become law. "Universities will be placed on a sound financial footing," the Queen said. A bill is likely to be published as soon as next week. The second reading - MPs' first chance to vote on the bill - could then come as early as the week after next, leaving little time for compromise.
( Financial Times, Daily Telegraph )

Queen's speech special
See this week's edition of The THES for details.

Students vote to ditch the Duke of Edinburgh  
More than 800 Edinburgh students voted yesterday for a motion that read: "HRH Prince Philip is not a suitable figurehead or representative of the university. The role of chancellor might as well be filled by a piece of root ginger." On Monday, police confiscated two placards from students demonstrating outside the Royal Variety Performance in Edinburgh, which the Duke of Edinburgh was attending. Jeremy Kemp, a psychology student and the editor of the student satirical magazine Piffled, proposed the motion. He said that the duke, who has held the largely ceremonial role of chancellor for 50 years, had last been on campus in 1996. University rules mean that he should be in post for life.
( Guardian )

The international rescue
Why more and more British universities are looking to foreign talent or those with experience abroad when they  appoint a new vice-chancellor.
( Independent )

Europe aims for endless energy
Europe's scientists hope to mimic the power of the sun and create limitless energy on Earth with the help of a £6 billion experiment in the south of France. Ministers in Brussels gave the go-ahead yesterday for Iter, the world's biggest and most ambitious fusion reactor, at Cadarache near Aix-en-Provence. It will be ten years in the making and, in its 20-year operating life, researchers will experiment with a kind of slow hydrogen bomb in the hope of extracting vast amounts of clean energy from tiny amounts of heavy water. Iter will replace Jet, the current joint European fusion research project, based at Culham, Oxfordshire.
( Guardian )

Tree of tongues rooted in Turkey
A computer analysis of Indo-European languages has revealed that it began to separate into its modern variants between 7,800 and 9,800 years ago. Research led by Russell Gray, of the University of Auckland, suggests strongly that Indo-European emerged among Anatolian farmers about 8,000 years ago, and spread with their crops. He reports in Nature today that he and a colleague decided to treat language as if it was DNA and compared selected words from 87 languages to build an evolutionary tree.
( Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph )

Bang or fizz? A volcanic riddle is solved
The riddle of why some volcanoes erupt with explosive ferocity while others ooze a steady stream of lava has been solved: it is all a matter of bubbles. US research from the University of California at Berkeley, published today in the journal Nature , has revealed that the way in which bubbles grow and burst in a volcano's reservoir of molten rock or magma has critical implications for the destructiveness of any eruption. ( Times )

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