Today's news

November 6, 2003

Clarke hits out at top-up fee critics

The education secretary, Charles Clarke, launched the government's counterattack against critics of Labour's top-up fees policy yesterday with a claim that the policy would open up universities to everyone with "aspiration and talent, irrespective of background". Mr Clarke's allies claimed they were starting to turn the tide of hostile Labour opinion because of a concession that will add more generous university bursaries to government grants worth up to £2,125 a year for low-income families (those earning up to £15,200 a year). The 18-page government statement, which will be sent to Labour MPs, peers, policy-makers and local constituencies, sought to take on complaints that Mr Clarke's blueprint was elitist and would exclude poorer children from better life chances.
( Guardian )

France rules on elite education for poorest
France's first attempt to introduce positive discrimination into its university system may be ruled illegal today as a three-year dispute over a campaign to encourage applicants from deprived backgrounds draws to a close. Paris's appeal court is to decide today whether the Institut d'Etudes Politiques, universally known as Sciences-Po, is in breach of the constitution in favouring candidates from poorer schools in its entrance procedures. The university launched a drive to shake off its socially elitist image in 2001, when it began allowing pupils from some low-income neighbourhoods to bypass its famously terrifying entrance exam. The court hearing comes as the French government tries to reshape the image of its other bastion of academic elitism, the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, by shunting it from Paris out to relative obscurity in Strasbourg - and removing the guarantee of high-flying positions for its best graduates.
( Guardian )

First woman law lord takes swipe at sexism
Lady Justice Brenda Hale, who will become the first woman law lord in January, used an inaugural press briefing yesterday to take a swipe at sexism in the judiciary. In comments suggesting she would not hesitate to take a tilt at the stuffier conventions of her profession, she attacked the wearing of wigs in court, which the government was considering scrapping. She spent 18 years as a legal academic before becoming a judge in 1994 and only the second woman on the Court of Appeal in 1999.
( Financial Times, Daily Mail, Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph )

Schools risk failure as boys score poor marks
The UK is in danger of breaking international agreements unless it tackles the underperformance of boys in secondary schools, a report says today. An independent study for Unesco, the UN educational, scientific and cultural organisation, claimed that the UK will not meet the agreed target of achieving gender parity or equality in secondary schools by 2015. The Irish Republic, Sweden and Denmark are also at risk of failing to meet the parity and equality targets.
( Financial Times )

A pint at the pub is good for the mind
Researchers from University College London have found that while a drink with your friends may be bad for your waistline, it could be good for your mind. In a study due to be published this month, they report on a direct link between the social aspects of going to the pub and improved verbal and numerical ability. Psychologists from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health analysed information on 10,000 civil servants of all grades working in London.
( Times )

Spacecraft reaches for the stars
After 26 years speeding through the void at 10 miles a second, the spacecraft Voyager 1 has boldly gone where no spacecraft has gone before - to the edge of the solar system. Nasa scientists report today in the journal Nature that the craft has buffeted into a region known as the termination shock, where the sun's wind slams into the radiation from distant stars.
( Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent )

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