Today's news

December 4, 2003

Johnson says science students will escape top-up fees
Thousands of science students will escape top-up fees, the higher education minister declared yesterday. Alan Johnson told the Commons education select committee that it was a "near racing certainty" that students opting for physics and chemistry courses would pay "nothing or next to nothing" in fees. Those taking more popular subjects such as law and the arts would pay the top fee of £3,000 a year. This income would be transferred to subsidise science courses to attract more students.
( Independent )

Lambert says that universities must raise private cash
Universities will be told today to raise more private-sector money and modernise their antiquated management systems in return for being allowed to charge students top-up fees. The results of Richard Lambert's year-long review of the relationship between higher education and business, commissioned by the Treasury, are published today. Mr Lambert recommends the creation of an industrial research institute modelled on the equivalent body in the United States, where universities have been far more successful at building links with business. Chancellor Gordon Brown signals in The Times today, that extra funding in next year's spending round is likely to be targeted at collaborative projects between colleges, businesses and public-sector enterprises, one of Mr Lambert’s key recommendations.
( Times, THES ) 

Showdown looms on tuition fees
Tony Blair and the army of Labour critics of his tuition-fee plans were still refusing to blink last night as ministers insisted they would not give way on the scheme's principles. It would take only 82 rebels to destroy Mr Blair's once impregnable Commons majority, and some MPs are predicting that the showdown could end in his resignation in late January. "He can't win this by bullying alone. There are too many arms to be twisted," one said. The government hopes to exploit potential splits between Labour opponents of top-up fees by focusing on the rebels' inability to agree on the best alternative way of funding universities.
( Guardian )

No men for Oxford's all-women bastion
Oxford's last remaining women's college, St Hilda's, yesterday voted to preserve more than a century of tradition and retain its status as a single-sex college. The decision to remain women-only was confirmed when the college's governing body, comprised of 33 fellows, decided against admitting men by a margin of only two votes. Even students who were in favour of allowing men into St Hilda's said they had come out to campaign against the vote because of the "high-handed" manner in which the college authorities were perceived to have dealt with the episode.
( Daily Telegraph, Times, Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Daily Mail )

EU split over stem-cell research funding
An ethical dispute over whether to fund experiments on cells taken from embryos has split the European Union and plunged the scientific community into confusion. At a meeting in Brussels yesterday, ministers reached an impasse, leaving the official policy in limbo. The breakdown was the climax of a fiercely contested debate on whether to end a moratorium on the use of tens of millions of euros for stem cell work from €17 billion (£12 billion) available for EU research.
( Independent )

Swiss boffins boost chances of budding millionaires
Academics from the Mathematics Institute at the Ecole Polytechnic Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland, have devised the perfect formula to legally help contestants on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? boost their chances of success. The formula, which reads pn (j,k) = P (xn+1,s) = k / Xn,s = j, jE kn, kE Kn+1, will tell the mathematically astute when it is best to bank their winnings, when it is worth asking the audience or phoning a friend, and when it is best to take a chance on an uncertain question.
( Times )

British student calculates largest prime number
The largest known prime number, with more than 6 million digits, has been discovered by British chemical engineering student Michael Shafer. He found the number using a programme that utilises the spare capacity of computers. A £60,000 prize is being offered for the first prime number with ten million digits.
( Times )

FBI sponsors Yorkshire crimebusters
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is sponsoring a $1 million (£580,000) facial recognition research project at the Magna science centre in Rotherham, which will help to identify suspects from closed circuit television footage. "When an offender is captured on camera, it is notoriously difficult to determine their identity," said Martin Evison, a forensic scientist and facial reconstruction expert at the University of Sheffield, who is leading the research.
( Guardian )

Scientists say oranges cut cancer risk
An orange a day is the best bet for keeping cancer away, according to researchers at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, who have found that consuming citrus fruits could cut the risk of mouth, larynx and stomach cancers by up to 50 per cent. They also found that consuming an extra serving can reduce the risk of a stroke by 19 per cent.
( Daily Mail )

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