Today's news

December 10, 2003

Use IQ tests to select students, says Schwartz
IQ-style tests are more reliable than A levels in predicting how well a student will do at university, according to research published yesterday. Steven Schwartz, the head of the government's task force on university admissions, is to recommend in his final report to ministers in the new year that universities use IQ tests with A-level results to choose candidates, the aim being to increase the number of working-class students. The announcement was made two days before annual university performance tables are due to be published.
( Independent )

Top-up fees will 'bar the poor from elite courses'
A report from Catalyst, a left-leaning think-tank, says that the introduction of variable tuition fees would scare working-class students away from high-cost, prestige courses such as law and medicine. Claire Callender of South Bank University, a government adviser on student finance and an author of the research, claimed evidence showed that poorer students were already being deterred from going to university. The report, Higher Education and Social Justice, concludes that under the government's proposals, students from lower-income families will face a "maintenance gap" of almost £2,000 a year between their income and their cost of living, despite increases in bursary funds and loans.
( Times )

Education department to shed 1,000 jobs
Charles Clarke is to cut up to 1,000 jobs from the education department ahead of the next spending round. Education officials say there is no percentage target for the efficiency review. The department is still working out the scale and timing of the job reduction programme. But Whitehall insiders have suggested that the department is looking for a 25 per cent cut, which would return it to its 1997 strength.
( Financial Times )

Clarke fails to sway rebels MPs
Charles Clarke yesterday held the first of six sessions with the Labour critics of variable tuition fees amid signs that the rebellion, backed by leading supporters of the chancellor, Gordon Brown, is holding firm. The meeting was attended by 45 backbenchers. MPs later described the mood as "comradely" and "vigorous but not aggressive" but few were swayed by Mr Clarke's arguments. Jim Knight, MP for Dorset South, said: "It was a good meeting but the big issue will be variability, which wasn't touched on here."
( Guardian )

Tory leader maintains top-up fees opposition
Michael Howard says that there is no question of dropping his opposition to tuition fees, due to be voted on next month. He does not support the 50 per cent target for university admissions, and believes that the plan will raise so little money it will not cover the cost of expansion. A review of university funding will take place next year, but Mr Howard said that he did not believe that graduates should be forced to pay more than they do already.
( Times )

British Library claims it adds £363m to economy
The British Library will today seek to justify its government grant by quantifying its overall contribution to the economy, claiming it generates 4.4 times the value it receives in taxpayers' money. A study commissioned by the library concluded that it added £363 million to the economy every year. The report, which cost the British Library £150,000, will be used to back up its submission for the next spending review.
( Financial Times )

Skin cells offer potential Alzheimer's treatment
Scientists in Canada have turned adult skin cells into the building blocks of brain cells, opening the way for their use in therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The discovery, by a team at the University of Toronto, is particularly exciting as it promises to provide a readily accessible and ethically neutral source of neural stem cells, which are the precursors of nerve and brain tissue.
( Times )

Academic says Machiavelli was actually wise and good
Machiavelli, long reviled as a cynical and immoral advocate of naked power, was in fact a "profoundly moral humanist" intent on good governance and the welfare of the people, an Italian researcher has concluded. Giulio Ferroni, a professor of literature and philosophy at Rome University and a leading authority on the Renaissance, maintains in a new book that Machiavelli never uttered many of the maxims to which he has been linked. Those that he did profess had been taken out of context.
( Times )

Letters and comment
Persuading business to build collaboration with universities; Cambridge collegial spur to business innovation. ( Financial Times )
Oxbridge in troubled waters. ( Daily Telegraph )

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