Today's news

November 26, 2003

Cook joins MPs in revolt over top-up fees

At least 100 Labour MPs including Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, will launch a mass revolt tomorrow against Tony Blair's plans to introduce university top-up fees. In a fresh gesture of defiance against the prime minister, they will follow up today's Queen's Speech, which will include legislation for top-up fees, with a Commons motion condemning the plan. A survey, conducted by BBC1's Six O'clock News , found that 90 per cent of universities had decided to charge the full £3,000 or were considering doing so. Education secretary Charles Clarke wants to bring the higher education bill to an early vote in the Commons next month in an attempt to get perhaps the most controversial piece of legislation this side of the general election out of the way as soon as possible.
( Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Guardian, Times , Independent )

Plan B: all students should pay £2,500
Tony Blair was urged last night to re-think the government's plans to let universities charge student top-up fees as Labour MPs who oppose the policy tabled an alternative. They called for variable fees to be dropped in favour of a higher, flat-rate tuition fee of £2,500 a year paid by all undergraduates regardless of their family background. New arrangements for poorer students should be made, with grants of up to £4,000 a year to support their living costs. A new system should also transfer some of the income from tuition fees from elite universities to poorer institutions, they argued. The proposals were put forward by the Labour MPs Alan Whitehead and Peter Bradley.

University leaders condemn Tory call to end tuition fees
The Conservatives' policy of scrapping tuition fees is to be condemned by Britain’s 122 universities and higher education colleges as regressive. Universities UK, which represents every institution, believes that the party's plans to oppose variable top-up fees and abolish the present £1,125 charge will dramatically cut undergraduate places to the disadvantage of poor students as well as rich ones. Ivor Crewe, the vice-chancellor of Essex University and chairman of UUK, said that the Tory plans would make universities more dependent on the Treasury and taxpayers' money, contrary to the general Conservative philosophy of decentralisation.
( Times )

Being an Oxbridge don can add four years to your life
Something about the dreaming spires of Oxford and Cambridge enables their fellows to live for four years longer than average, according to a study published yesterday. "We wondered whether the lifestyle is so life-enhancing that it leads to longer life spans among fellows than among control cohorts," said Michael Brooke, of Cambridge University, where he conducted the study with colleagues in the Department of Zoology. Their verdict is about to be published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution .
( Daily Telegraph )

Staying the course at college
While some students make a seamless transition to their new life of financial and social independence at university, most find that it takes longer to adjust than they expected. In a report to the British Psychological Society recently, Lesley Sumner and colleagues at the Edge Hill Centre for Studies in the Social Sciences report that initial research suggest that students with close relatives who had completed a degree were more likely to experience anxiety, stress and depression than students from families with no higher-education experience. The researchers plan to follow their subjects through graduation and their first year of employment before publishing their findings.
( Times )

City is banking on rise in graduate recruits
Investment banks in the City of London are set to increase the number of graduates they take on next year by up to 50 per cent as hopes for a recovery grow. Graduates can expect a starting salary of at least £35,000.
( Evening Standard )

Medical students' debts continue to rise
Medical students' debts have continued to rise in the past year with some owing as much as £50,000, the British Medical Association said. The average fifth-year medical student is already in debt by more than £17,000.
( Times )

Oxford business school's social aim boosted
Jeff Skoll, founder of eBay, the online auction company, has spearheaded the donation of $7.5m (£4.4 million) to the University of Oxford's Said Business School to create Europe's first centre for social entrepreneurship. The donation brings the funding received by the Said school to £50 million since its inception seven years ago.
( Financial Times )

Minister rejects ban on smoking in public
The government yesterday slapped down calls for a complete ban on smoking in public places despite a powerful alliance of medical experts making the plea. Yesterday the leaders of all 18 royal colleges of medicine called for legislation to eliminate the 1,000 deaths a year caused by passive smoking. But the public health minister, Melanie Johnson, swiftly ruled out the idea of going any further than the current voluntary system. While admitting that "smoke-free places are the ideal", she argued that a universal ban could not be justified while progress was being made on a voluntary basis and before the idea won wholesale public approval.
( Guardian )

Carpark to be laid over Roman mosaics
Archaeologists expressed dismay yesterday after learning that a car park was to be laid over excavations that have yielded some of the most impressive mosaics ever found under Rome. Work at the site in the Trastevere district uncovered the remains of an imperial river port where goods arriving from Ostia on the coast were unloaded and stored.
( Guardian, Daily Telegraph )

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