Today's news

November 24, 2003


Universities demand no retreat on fees

Britain's elite universities warned yesterday that middle-class students could be denied places or charged the full cost of their degrees if the government failed to deliver on its pledge to increase tuition fees. In a letter to The Times , leaders of the country's top research universities said they would fall hopelessly behind rivals in the US unless Tony Blair faced down opposition to higher fees. The heads of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Imperial College, University College, London and the London School of Economics said that the principle of equal access was "at risk" unless they were allowed to raise enough money to provide bursaries for students.
( Times, Financial Times )

Students die in Moscow dormitory fire
At least 32 people have been killed after a fire swept through a student hostel at the People's Friendship University in southwest Moscow. Another 139 were injured with burns, smoke inhalation or from jumping out of windows to escape the flames. Casualties included students from China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and a number of African countries. The fire, apparently caused by an electrical fault, gutted the top three floors of the dormitory block.
( BBC News online )

French minister gives in to striking students
Striking French students forced the education minister into a humiliating climbdown at the weekend over plans to reform the university system. Protests at 17 institutions forced Luc Ferry to scrap plans to give French universities more autonomy.
( Daily Telegraph )

Higher education items in the weekend press

  • UK e-Universities Worldwide internet college is a £30 million flop after attracting only 900 students. ( Observer )
  • Lord Strathclyde warns that Tony Blair could face a crisis if Scottish MPs are used to back top-up fees in England. ( Sunday Express )
  • Hundreds of students have declared themselves bankrupt to avoid paying student debts. ( Sunday Times )
  • Cambridge University is to set out details of a bursary scheme to help poorer students.( Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph , November 22)
  • Students at Edinburgh University have launched a campaign to sack Prince Philip as their chancellor, describing him as useful "as a piece of root ginger." ( Guardian , November 22)
  • All students may be charged interest on their student loans to raise additional money to help cover poorer students' tuition fees. ( Financial Times , November 22)
  • Business gurus brought in to help university chiefs raise their management game complain of red tape. ( Financial Times , November 22)
  • John Prescott has approved plans for a Cambridge University laboratory that will conduct experiments on monkeys - although it is likely to be delayed because the university can no longer afford to build it. ( Guardian , November 22)
'Master molecule' could help treat schizophrenia
A study of mice given pychosis-inducing drugs has provided a valuable new insight into how to treat schizophrenia. It shows that three common drugs of abuse, each acting on a different messenger chemical in the brain, all produce the same schizophrenia-like symptoms by acting on a single "master molecule". Paul Greengard, the Nobel prizewinning co-author of the research from Rockefeller University, New York, and colleagues in pharmaceutical and biotech companies, liken the crucial protein, known as DARPP-32, to "the thin neck in an hourglass", through which all signals taken into a nerve cell must pass and be processed.
( Daily Telegraph )

Cereal linked to birth defects
Foods that are sugary or highly processed can as much as quadruple the risk of birth defects, according to research. Pregnant women who eat a lot of corn flakes, white bread, white rice or chocolate biscuits are putting their babies at risk of crippling abnormalities. The risk of such birth defects increased up to four-fold, according to Gary Shaw, from the University of California's birth defects monitoring programme.
( Daily Mail )

World's first GM pet to go on sale
The world's first genetically engineered pet will soon be swimming - and glowing bright red - in fish tanks across America. A tropical zebra fish, genetically modified to glow red in normal light and fluorescent when seen under ultraviolet light, will be on sale for about £3 in the new year.
( Daily Telegraph )

Mini-turbine brings 'green power for all'
Windsave, a small Scottish company, launches Britain's first domestic wind power system today. At a one-off cost of £750, the unit is designed to be fitted on almost any roof or wall to supplement electricity from the grid. The company claims its wind turbine can provide 15 per cent of the average household's electricity needs.
( Guardian )

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