Today's news

October 1, 2003

Clarke gives no ground on college top-up fees
Education Secretary Charles Clarke refused to back down over university top-up fees yesterday, describing them as the fairest way to fund higher education. Despite strong criticism from Labour delegates, students and MPs, he said it was entirely reasonable that most graduates should contribute to the cost of their courses later in life. In a speech that put as much emphasis on the need to improve education for the under-fives as it did on higher education, Mr Clarke said special measures would be taken to stop students being excluded from the best courses.
(Daily Telegraph, Times, Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Daily Mail)

Students spend book cash on beer
Research by has shown that even when lectures are in full swing, beer continues to matter more to students than books. Although those going to university in the UK plan to spend £311 million on textbooks, the actual spend is about £176 million because the average student will use 43 per cent of the planned book money to fund drinking sessions and other extra curricular activities.

Union accuses dons of bullying staff
Julie Wilson, secretary of the universities and colleges branch of Unison, has written an open letter to vice-chancellor Alison Richard urging her to "eliminate bullying and other harassment" of ordinary workers. The letter follows an "equality audit" of the 7,000 people on the payroll which described the university as a "tough, macho culture where intimidation is by culture rather than by individual persons". The survey suggested that a "closed culture" at the university lay behind the poor people skills of its managers.

Business needs of research overlooked, says CBI
University research assessments are biased towards academic excellence and should reward business links, according to the CBI. In a response to what it calls a "web of disconnected reviews" of university research and funding, the employers' organisation said proposals by the government and funding councils threaten the commercial exploitation of discoveries and inventions.
(Financial Times)

Axe falls on East Asian studies at Durham
Durham University's ruling council yesterday approved the closure of its East Asian studies department by 18 votes to two yesterday despite widespread opposition.
(Daily Telegraph)

First woman takes over Cambridge helm
Controversial government proposals to shake up higher education funding represent "a wake-up call" for Britain's universities after 30 years of diminishing funding, the incoming vice-chancellor of Cambridge said yesterday. Professor Alison Richard (story includes her CV), who begins her new job today, said it was remarkable that "the vitality and intellectual energy" of Cambridge was still so strong, given that, like many other universities, it was under-financed.
(Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Times, Independent)

Financial crisis threatens National Gallery
The chairman of the National Gallery predicts drastic cutbacks unless the government recognises that the 170-year-old institution is facing a "chronic" shortfall in its funding. Sir Peter Scott said that government figures did not take account of inflation, and that the gallery had suffered a real-term drop of £2.5 million in funds since the mid-1990s.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

New Hampshire picked as site of breakaway US regime
A US libertarian movement promoting "minimalist government", the free market, drugs, prostitution and gun ownership plans to infiltrate New Hampshire to create a breakaway American regime, its leaders will announce in New York today. Jason Sorens, a lecturer in political science at Yale University and president of the project, said he wants to create an "autocratic territory" following the examples of the Mormons in Utah, the French separatists in Quebec, and the conservative Amish religious communities.

Scientist in rethink over drug link to suicide
The University of Texas researcher who led the latest trial of an antidepressant drug given to children, which appeared to show that it was effective and safe, has conceded that the drug's potential to cause suicidal thinking needs to be investigated. Last month the Journal of the American Medical Association published results from two trials of children treated with Pfizer's antidepressant drug Lustral, known in the US as Zoloft. (Guardian)

Fish show appetite for clock watching
That blank look in the eyes of a fish may not be evidence of a three-second memory span after all; it might be clockwatching. Research by Phil Gee, a psychologist from Plymouth University, has shown that far from being forgetful, fish can learn to tell the time.
(Guardian, Times)

Researchers hail skin cancer 'vaccine'
Following successful trials on animals and human cells, Cancer Research UK scientists based at Birmingham University have been given the go-ahead to begin human trials of a gene therapy system, that teaches the body's immune system to detect and destroy skin cancer.
(Daily Telegraph)

Sleep vital in cancer fight
Scientists from Stanford University in California believe a good night's sleep may be a potent weapon against cancer. A study found sleep can alter the balance of hormones which in turn may influence cancer progression.

Breast cancer drug to be tested
Cancer Research UK yesterday announced trials of a drug that might be able to prevent breast cancer. Anastrozole is about to be tested in 10,000 women who are at higher risk than most of developing the disease.
(Guardian, Times, Daily Mail)

Mannequin could alert women to danger lumps
Researchers at the University of Warwick have developed a mannequin that can be used for diagnosing breast cancer by mimicking the look and feel of a range of breast lumps.

Today we would ignore Einstein
Original thinking is being strangled by bureaucracy, say top scientists. "The number of scientific Nobel prizes won by people working in the UK's universities has been slashed by 90 per cent since the 1950s and 1960s", says Peter Cotgreave, director of the pressure group Save British Science.
(Daily Telegraph)

Other higher education items
Getting pupils from poor homes into Oxbridge needs a change in attitude as well as money (Times) · How Charles Clarke was made to resign… at chess (Times) · I2PIPO, the group that brings the inventions of UK academics to market, is to float later this month (Times) · Report on how a new BA in social work aims to uplift the profession (Guardian) · Report on the growing number of cults targeting university campuses (Guardian).

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