Today's news

January 16, 2004


Top-up fees won't mean more cash, say dons
Dons at Cambridge are urging a rethink of the university’s bursary scheme after calculating that it could end up absorbing almost all its income from top-up fees. Cambridge has led the way in anticipating higher fees by drawing up plans for the poorest students to receive annual grants of £4,000. But critics of the plan, led by Gillian Evans, a Cambridge professor of medieval history and former member of the university’s governing council, argue that it is self-defeating if dons succeed in attracting more of these students if the cost of the bursaries wipes out the extra income from fees.
( Times )

Universities 'conned' by Brown
The cost of the government's scheme for variable tuition fees will have to come out of the existing higher education budget, it emerged yesterday, raising fears that universities will get no extra cash. The Tories seized on an admission by Charles Clarke, the education secretary, that he has not secured extra funds from the Treasury as evidence that universities have been "conned" into backing the proposal.
( Daily Telegraph )

Two more Labour MPs join the rebel camp
Tony Blair hinted yesterday that he might resign as prime minister if he loses the crucial Commons vote on university top-up fees this month. He used his monthly press conference at Downing Street to increase the pressure on the rebel Labour MPs who are threatening to inflict a humiliating defeat on the higher education bill. But Mr Blair suffered a setback when two more Labour MPs - Mohammed Sarwar and Andy Reed - joined the rebels by signing a Commons motion urging the government to think again. This took the number of Labour signatories to 159, despite several "switchers" removing their names.
( Independent )

Concessions win over key Labour rebel
The cracks in the Labour revolt on top-up fees widened last night when a key rebel said that he would "almost certainly" now back the government. Alan Whitehead, a former minister, co-authored an influential paper putting the case for flat-rate fees that put him in the forefront of backbench opposition to variable tuition charges. His fellow author, Peter Bradley, MP for The Wrekin, said that ministers could not yet count on his support. Tony Clarke, MP for Northampton South, has also decided to vote for the bill.
( Times )

Blair says he is winning over fee rebels
Tony Blair declared yesterday that he was beginning to win the argument with Labour rebels over his plans to allow universities to levy variable tuition fees, but admitted "the battle is still there to win". The prime minister used his monthly press conference in Downing Street to spell out how backbenchers were being won round to the merits of the scheme. "The more the argument has gone on, the more people have seen this is a bold reform, yes, but an important one and a right one." ( Financial Times )

Has Blair fixed the fees debate?
Tony Blair was suspected of a desperate political 'fix' last night after it was revealed that the report of the Hutton inquiry will be published the day after the make-or-break vote on university top-up fees. Speculation swept Westminster that the prime minister is deliberately using the threat of impending publication of the report to try to quell his backbench mutiny.
( Daily Mail )

Blair's top-up timing is nice and queasy
The week has gone well for Tony Blair. He is still not certain of winning the critical vote on university tuition fees on January . And by staging that vote just one day before the Hutton inquiry verdict he has created a clash to make even the most robust cabinet minister a tad queasy. But the battle over the tuition fee bill has begun to go his way this week for two reasons. First, the prime minister finally put booster rockets on the argument for his flagship reform of universities. And second, the backbench rebellion against the bill began to appear increasingly like a plot against Mr Blair himself.
( Financial Times )

£3m for Frankenstein draft
The Bodleian Library in Oxford has been given £3 million to buy a collection of Mary Shelley’s manuscripts, including the original draft of Frankenstein. The money, from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, is the largest gift that the library has received for a single purchase.
( Times )

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