Today's news

December 1, 2003


Rebel MPs force top-up fees retreat until New Year
The government has decided to delay publishing its plans to introduce university top-up fees in the face of opposition from rebel MPs. The higher education bill had been pencilled in for Wednesday but has been put off for several weeks. The delay allows Mr Blair to avoid a Commons showdown before Christmas and provides time for concessions to be considered. It is anticipated that the government will increase the salary level at which graduates would have to start repaying the fees from the current proposed £15,000 a year to £18,000 or even £20,000.
( Independent, Daily Telegraph, Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Daily Mail )

Let us vary top-up fees, 5 v-cs say
The vice-chancellors of the University of Central England, the University of Westminster, Sheffield Hallam University, Liverpool John Moores University and University of East Anglia write that it is ridiculous that every course in every institution should or could command the same price.
( Guardian )

Colleges told not to downgrade teaching
University lecturers are neglecting ordinary students because they prefer to spend their time on high-flying research careers, Royal Society president Lord May of Oxford will warn today. He partly blames the government's research assessment exercise, which helps to determine universities' share of taxpayers' money, as "a growing bureaucracy masquerading as accountability". In some institutions, academics even take pride in avoiding the rigours of the lecture hall, he says.
( Guardian )

Israeli academics fight 'racist' university test
Israeli academics are threatening to call for an international boycott of their own university heads if admission tests alleged to have curbed the number of Arab students are reintroduced after they were dropped a year ago. The heads of the country's five universities last week announced that they would bring back controversial psychometric testing that favours middle-class Jewish students.
( Guardian )

Students injured in Moscow race attack
Six foreign students living in Moscow were injured when a group of skinheads attacked them near the People's Friendship University on Saturday night. Speaking on Moscow's Ekho Moskvi radio station, the rector of the university, Viktor Ponko, described the attackers as being aged 15 to 18, and said they set upon the students at a bus stop in the south-west of the city.
( Guardian, Independent )

St Hilda's to vote on men again
St Hilda's, Oxford University's remaining women-only college, is facing another vote on whether to admit men, eight months after dons last rejected the proposal. The college's 31 fellows will vote on Wednesday. St Hilda's students joined forces with Cambridge's three women-only colleges in October to mount a joint campaign to protect their status.
( Guardian, Independent )

New degree in railway engineering
Britain's first specialist foundation degree course in railway engineering will be launched by Sheffield Hallam University this week. Fifty places will be on offer from next year.
( Guardian )

Exercise is as addictive as booze and fags, say scientists
Some people may become as addicted to working out at the gym as others become hooked on cocaine, tobacco or alcohol, according to research published in the December issue of Behavioral Neuroscience . A team from the Oregon Health and Science University has confirmed that not pumping iron or pounding the pavement could trigger withdrawal symptoms.
( Daily Telegraph, Guardian )

Blair mad? That's a barmy idea
Allan Beveridge, a leading psychiatrist from the Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline, has taken a look at the links between politics and mental stability in the latest issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine after assorted claims in the media that Tony Blair might be mad. "The qualities that have been cited to prove that Blair is a psychopath are his charm, insincerity and talent for drama. The most prosaic explanation for these qualities is that he has the lawyer's ability to defend positions without necessarily believing in them."
( Guardian )

Higher education items from the weekend press

  • Charles Clarke maintains that top-up fees are the fairest option to increase higher education funding. ( Observer, Sunday Times, Independent on Sunday, Sunday Telegraph, Mail on Sunday )
  • Science freeze at King's College London leaves prospective students in the cold. ( Independent on Sunday )
  • The Lambert report on improving links between business and academia comes out next week. ( Financial Times , 29 November)

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