Today's news

December 8, 2003


Chancellor backs PM on top-up fees  
The prime minister's hopes of heading off a backbench rebellion on university top-up fees received a boost yesterday when supporters of chancellor Gordon Brown appeared to move towards a truce with Downing Street. Nick Brown, the chancellor's chief lieutenant and one of the rebel ringleaders, withdrew from a television interview that would have pitted him against the higher education minister, Alan Johnson. The improved atmosphere was signalled by the chancellor when he indicated that he was prepared to sign up to variable fees on the basis that the repayment system would be fairer for less well-off students. His carefully chosen words whie appearing on BBC1's Breakfast with Frost indicate that Mr Blair has agreed that the only way of persuading Labour MPs to sign up to variable fees is by sweetening the repayment system.
( Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Daily Mail )

V-cs revolt over top-up fees bursary scheme
The government faces a damaging revolt by vice-chancellors over a central part of its plan to help Britain's poorest students. Their misgivings threaten to undermine an intensive campaign by ministers to quell Labour opposition to university top-up fees. Vice-chancellors will urge education secretary Charles Clarke to back down over plans to force them to use part of the income from the fees to pay bursaries to students from low-income backgrounds. Mr Clarke will hold the first of six seminars today, aimed at blunting the backbench rebellion. Nearly 160 Labour MPs have signed a motion criticising the plans.
( Independent )

Graduates 'pay £250k more tax' than others
A senior economist at accountants Numerica has calculated that a typical graduate will pay £250,000 more in tax and national insurance over a working lifetime than a non-graduate. He says any suggestion that graduates do not already contribute a substantial extra amount financially to society is a fallacy.
( Daily Express )

French historians get to heart of the matter
After years of painstaking research, French historians say they have solved one of the country's most enduring mysteries. They claim a pickled heart that has roamed Europe for more than two centuries belonged to Louis XVII, the Boy King, son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon said yesterday the experts' verdict, based on historical analysis and DNA tests, meant the remains could be buried in France's royal crypt at Saint-Denis, north of Paris.
( Guardian )

Britain heads for hottest year since 1659
This year is on course to be the hottest in Britain in nearly 350 years of reliable records, climate scientists say. Data maintained by the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Norwich show that, unless we are hit by a sustained freeze of Arctic proportions in the next three weeks, the current 12 months will prove the hottest in the whole of the Central England Temperature Record, which goes back to 1659.
( Independent )

Letters and comment
Michael Beloff, president of Trinity College, Oxford, writes that the university selection criterion that matters most is ability. ( Daily Telegraph )
Sir Richard Sykes, rector of Imperial College London, says that universities must see themselves as the knowledge base in the knowledge society and that people are the key to technology transfer. ( Financial Times )
Keith Jones of the School of Applied Chemistry at Kingston University writes that a free market in higher education is devastating for science. ( Independent )
Five letters apiece on the government's top-up fees plan. ( Times, Guardian )

Obituaries
John Smith, the Cambridge microbiologist died, on November 22 2003, aged 78. ( Times )
Dame Helen Metcalf, the committed educationalist, has died of cancer, aged 57. ( Guardian )

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