Today's news

December 16, 2003

59% of voters oppose top-up fees
Widespread public opposition to the government's plans to introduce top-up fees for university students is revealed by an ICM opinion poll published today. The survey shows that 59 per cent of the public disapprove of top-up fees, 40 per cent of them strongly. The poll also demonstrates that the public's opposition is based on a sound understanding of what the government means by top-up fees. The ICM poll also shows overwhelming opposition, particularly among Labour voters, to universities charging variable fees, and support for positive discrimination towards students from poorer backgrounds by the top universities.
( Guardian, Daily Mail, Financial Times )

We'll cut places, universities warn
Leading universities yesterday warned that British undergraduates could be denied places if the government backs down over top-up fees. University College London is cutting as many as 4,000 domestic undergraduate places, about a third of its current compliment, in favour of postgraduates and non-EU students, who pay at least £10,000 a year. Birmingham vice-chancellor Michael Sterling, chairman of the Russell Group of 19 elite universities, said others could be forced to take similar steps.
( Daily Mail )

Scottish universities urged to pool academic resources
Universities in Scotland are being encouraged by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council to pool resources in physics, economics, life sciences and creative industries to create greater "critical mass" in the competition for research funding. Roger McClure, the council's chief executive, said a combined Scottish physics "institute" looked set to be the first fruit of the policy, designed to encourage outside academics and funding bodies to "see the Scottish research landscape as a whole" rather than a disparate set of smaller departments and institutions.
( Financial Times )

Clarke serves up objections to fixed fees
Education secretary Charles Clarke last night gave rebel Labour backbenchers seven objections to fixed-rate university fees as part of his drive to win MPs round to variable charges. Mr Clarke also published an analysis of university costs overseas, showing that the principle of variable fees had been accepted in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and the US.
( Times )

Ministers consider student loans concession
More generous loans may be made available to cover student living costs as ministers try to buy off Labour MPs intending to vote against the higher education bill. The student loan company, set up by the previous government, is providing students with loans at an inflation-linked 3.1 per cent interest rate. But ministers are considering ways to make more money available.
( Daily Mail )

Librarians threaten to shelve pay deal
As university employers prepare to approve a new salary structure this week, librarians and their academic colleagues in the Association of University Teachers could scupper their plans with a strike ballot.
( Guardian )

A-levels of wealth
Physics, chemistry and biology is the combination of A levels that leads to the highest salaries, according to a study by Geraint Johnes from the University of Lancaster Management School. English, history and French produced the lowest.
( Times )

British Museum grant to boost ties with Africa
The prime minister last night announced a £500,000 grant to the British Museum to fund a five-year project celebrating the link between Britain and Africa. The money will enable the museum to build new links with African institutions. It will pay for fellowships, exhibitions focusing on art from Africa, and a major conference.
( Times )

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