Today's news

December 19, 2003

Blair is losing the battle over university fees
Tony Blair has failed to build a consensus around his view that half of all young people should enter higher education, according to the latest YouGov survey. A majority also fears that the volume of student debt entailed by the government's proposals will saddle future graduate generations with a crippling financial burden. YouGov's findings indicate that the overwhelming majority of people believes that a multi-tier university system already exists. Some 93 per cent of respondents reckon having top-class universities is either very or fairly important to Britain's economic future.
( Daily Telegraph )

Top-up fee rebels win concessions from Clarke
Charles Clarke, the education secretary, is expected to offer concessions to mollify backbench Labour MPs opposed to his plans to introduce tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year. The proposals, which could be announced today, aim to counter fears that students from poor backgrounds will be put off university education. The chief whip, Hilary Armstrong, has told MPs that the bill's second reading will be held at the end of the month. Ministers are now apparently willing to increase the maintenance grant for poor students but reduce the tuition fee remission.
( Guardian )

Oxford accepting fewer state school pupils
Despite a concerted campaign to target bright candidates from non-traditional backgrounds, the proportion of students admitted to Oxford University from the maintained sector has dropped from 54.3 per cent to 51.7 per cent. Under targets set by the government's funding council, the university was expected to give 69 per cent of places to pupils from state schools. Cambridge University does not release its figures on acceptances until next month. Newcastle University has said that it will charge the maximum £3,000-a-year tuition fee for all its degree courses if Parliament approves the plans.
( Times )

Universities face battle for overseas students
Growing competition from universities in the US, Australia and Asia could rob UK higher education of its share of students from overseas, the British Council has warned in a study. The council says that the number of international students being taught in UK universities is set to grow by 8-9 per cent a year from 142,000 in 2002 to about 677,000 by 2015 and 1.3 million by 2025.
( Financial Times )
Read the full story  in the latest edition of The THES

Dark matter: science breakthrough of 2003
Proof of the existence of dark matter, a kind of gravity in reverse that makes up 73 per cent of the universe, is listed as the breakthrough of the year in the US journal Science today. The findings settle a number of arguments about the universe, its age, its expansion rate, and its composition, all at once. Astronomers now believe the age of the universe is 13.7 billion years, plus or minus a few hundred thousand.
( Guardian )

Extreme climate change on Mars revealed
As a new flotilla of spacecraft, led by Europe's Mars Express, approaches the Red Planet, the satellites already in orbit - Nasa's Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey - continue to produce important evidence about the Martian climate. The latest discovery, reported in the journal Nature, is that Mars has had a series of ice ages during which ice covered as much as half the planet. Scientists at Brown and Boston universities in the US who analysed the data say it shows that Mars is not a dead planet but undergoes climate changes that are even more pronounced than on Earth.
( Financial Times )

Scientists create cholesterol-free mice for fat cats
Cholesterol-free mice that would make healthy snacks for cats have been created by scientists. Researchers hope they will shed light on the role of cholesterol, which is linked with clogged arteries but also has many uses in cells. The mice, described today in the journal Science, have a genetic mutation that disrupts an enzyme involved in the manufacture of cholesterol. They were smaller than normal and infertile, but otherwise suffered few ill-effects.
( Daily Telegraph )

And finally...
The THES daily news service is taking a break. Our next round-up of higher education items in the national press will appear on January 5 2004. Wishing you all the best for the festive season!

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