Today's news

January 29, 2004

Taxpayers face £900m tuition bill for EU students
Students from other EU countries will benefit from the same fee remission arrangements as those in England under the government's higher education reforms, the Department for Education and Skills confirmed yesterday. This means that they will also be liable to pay tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year only once they have graduated. English universities will have an incentive to recruit EU students because they would get the £3,000 tuition payment from the government immediately. But if the students default on their payments, UK taxpayers could face a £900 million bill to cover the cost of their fees. The Student Loans Company has no right to deduct payments directly from the salaries of foreign students and would instead have to hire debt collection agencies to pursue those who failed to pay.
( Times )

Fee rebels to seek fresh concessions
Backbench rebel MPs and universities made it clear yesterday they will continue to fight for changes to the higher education bill in the wake of the government's narrow victory on top-up fees. Opponents of variable fees pledged to seek further concessions as the bill goes through its committee and report stages. Critics said many Labour MPs who were persuaded to back the government had done so only in the expectation that they would secure changes in the bill in return. ( Guardian )

Labour's education rebels accused of emulating Militant
Rebel Labour MPs who nearly defeated Tony Blair's plans for university tuition fees were accused yesterday of developing a party within a party. Amid bitter recriminations over the revolt that almost killed the higher education Bill, Jack Cunningham, the veteran Blairite backbencher, compared the plotters to the Militant Tendency that disrupted Labour in the 1980s. Loyalist MPs called at yesterday's weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party for "serial" rebels to be disciplined.
( Times, Independent, Daily Mail )

Tories look to employers to aid universities
Employers and alumni could be called upon to help solve the university funding crisis under plans being examined by the Conservative party. Michael Howard is to flesh out a new policy on higher education by the summer after his party voted against the government's plans to introduce top-up fees. Yesterday Tim Yeo, shadow education secretary, said options being considered would see employers and alumni making bigger contributions to universities.
( Financial Times )

Letters : Now the fight must turn towards the issue of university pay ( Guardian ); Graduate employment expectations, salaries and top-up fees ( Financial Times ).

Fingerprint science may be unreliable
Fingerprint evidence is much more unreliable than the public, police and courts think and rests on foundations that have never been rigorously tested, an investigation by New Scientist magazine has suggested. The idea that two identical fingerprints must come from the same person is based on research that has never been peer-reviewed by independent experts. The magazine’s concerns stem from scientists’ criticisms of a US study conducted in 2000 by the FBI and the company Lockheed Martin.
( Times )

Nasa accused of painting Mars red
The American space agency Nasa has been accused of digitally "tweaking" drab brown scenery to make it redder. It has even been suggested that Nasa removed green patches to hide evidence of life. The theories gained credence after Nasa told New Scientist that "getting the colours right is a surprisingly difficult and subjective job."
( Daily Telegraph )

Saving the last words of a dying language
A US linguist says that he has discovered Middle Chulym - a unique language spoken by a dwindling ethnic minority in the depths of Siberia - but it is on the verge of extinction. The language of the descendants of nomadic Tartars of western Siberia is now spoken fluently by only 35 people, according to David Harrison of Swathmore College. He and his colleagues are striving to document Middle Chulym and publish the first books in the language to preserve it for posterity.
( Times )

Grapefruit diet really works, say scientists in US
The grapefruit diet espoused by women across the Western world 30 years ago really does work, according to research from the United States. A three-month study has shown that adults who ate half a grapefruit with each normal meal, three times a day, lost 3.6lb on average compared with people eating a similar diet without grapefruit who lost only 0.5lb. Details of the research are published in the Chemistry and Industry Magazine .
( Daily Telegraph )

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