Today's news

December 2, 2003


Fees vote delayed as Clarke loses to the whips
The government's crucial vote on top-up fees was off, on and then off again yesterday as ministers disagreed over how to avoid a potentially devastating defeat. A strong appeal by education secretary Charles Clarke to the prime minister to hold the vote before Christmas was finally rebuffed after a meeting between the two men last night. Downing Street apparently ordered the delay because whips could count on winning back only about 40 of the 133 rebel Labour MPs for a vote before Christmas. The government needs to convert at least 50 to be certain of victory.
( Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent )

Brown under pressure to back top-up fees
Chancellor Gordon Brown is coming under mounting pressure from senior Labour figures to give a public show of support for the government's policy on university top-up fees, amid signs that the legislation is running into implacable resistance from the party's backbench MPs. Senior figures close to the prime minister believe Mr Brown's position may prove critical. "We may well lose this vote in any event," said one senior ally of Mr Blair. "But we are certain to lose it if Gordon doesn't come out and say something."
( Financial Times )

Universities worried about top-up bill delays
Delaying the higher education bill could prevent universities benefiting from "desperately needed" top-up fee income during 2006, the scheme's planned first year of operation, because universities will have too little time to agree fee levels, according to Universities UK. The sector's umbrella body warned yesterday that delay was "worrying" as applicants sitting A-levels in 2005 but taking a year out before starting university in 2006 would have to be informed of the charges attached to courses in prospectuses before they were equipped to make a choice.
( Financial Times )

Top-up fees: Myth or magic?
Nicholas Barr and Iain Crawford, architects of the top-up fees policy, argue that their critics in and outside the Commons are harming the very causes they mean to support. The government's approach is the most progressive way to provide higher education free at the point of use and redistribute resources to the worst off.
( Guardian )

Clarke's alma mater has plenty to wine about
The debt crisis at education secretary Charles Clarke's alma mater, King's College, Cambridge, must be really serious - now they are selling off the claret. The college bursar has quietly sold off 180 cases of its finest wine to help pay debts. The sale raised £40,000 - a mere drop in the vat of the college's £1.2 million-a-year budget deficit.
( Daily Mail )

British student arrested in Iraq
A British university student has been seized in northern Iraq, suspected of trying to join a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda, which is attacking coalition forces. Urslaan Khan, 21, from Yarm, near Middlesbrough, was found last month travelling on his British passport through the mountains of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. The Manchester University student was intercepted near Erbil by a Kurdish security police patrol while travelling in a taxi with a second man whose identity are unknown.
( Times )

Treasury recommends White Rose model to colleges
As the Treasury prepares to publish the Lambert review on business/university links, anyone who wants to get an idea of the example ministers would like others to follow need look no further than the White Rose consortium. Established six years ago, this strategic research partnership between the universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, has already been singled out as a model of how universities can collaborate effectively among themselves and with the business community.
( Financial Times )

Study gives prisoners a great escape
Report on how an Open University course is helping hundreds of Britain's inmates plan a positive future.
( Independent )

Women smokers at double the risk of lung cancer
A woman smoker’s risk of lung cancer is just over double that of a man, once age and cigarette consumption are taken into account, according to preliminary results from Cornell University, New York. The results were presented at the Radiological Society of North America conference in Chicago yesterday.
( Times )

Microbeam can drive cancer cells to suicide
Scientists at Cancer Research UK's Gray Cancer Institute have helped develop a microbeam that fires a stream of charged helium particles just a thousandth of a millimetre wide. The researchers found that the beam caused targeted cells to send out suicidal signals to their neighbours. The technology could help to make radiotherapy a more potent weapon against tumours and less damaging to healthy tissue.
( Daily Telegraph, Guardian )

Birds pull out of dive as wild flowers lose ground
Numbers of English birds are stabilising after a 20-year decline, but wild flowers are at risk, a government wildlife audit shows. The residues of chemical fertilisers sprayed onto farmland, aided by nitrogen-rich fumes from motor vehicles, are encouraging a small number of plants to outgrow and crowd out other species.
( Independent, Times, Guardian )

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