Today's news

December 9, 2003

Dearing revises opinion and endorses top-up fees
Lord Dearing, who headed the most authoritative inquiry for decades into university finances, came out in favour of the government's proposals for top-up fees yesterday. Lord Dearing said he thought it, "right for the government to invite students after graduation to make a contribution", but criticised ministers for limiting accommodation grants to £1,000 a year. He said he hoped universities would not rush to introduce charges of £3,000 a year for all courses, but thought the figure was about the right upper limit.
( Independent )

Voters swing behind Blair on top-up fees

The public has given its strong backing to the prime minister's plans to introduce top-up fees for university students despite the hostility of rebel Labour MPs. The findings in a Populus poll for The Times conducted over the weekend, suggests that rebel Labour MPs are out of step with public opinion. A majority of the public, including nearly two-thirds of Labour voters, believe that the government's proposals for variable top-up fees repayable after graduation are fair. More Tory voters are sympathetic to the government's plan for top-up fees than to their own party’s call for cutting university places.
( Times )

Britons willing to pay more tax for education
The 20th Social Attitudes report, compiled annually by the National Centre for Social Research, reveals an increase in support for the injection of more taxpayers' money into health and education. But Britons are uncertain about the government's plans to shift the financial burden of higher education from the state to the individual through tuition fees and retain a deep-seated conviction that the higher education system is still failing young people from working class backgrounds.
( Independent, Financial Times, Guardian )

Don't make top-up fees divisive vote, says Cook
Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, urged Tony Blair yesterday not to turn the "deeply divisive" issue of university top-up tuition fees into a vote of confidence. Mr Cook suggested Mr Blair was undermining Parliament by his declaration that top-up fees were a test of his leadership.
( Daily Telegraph, Independent )

Must do better: professor's A-level failure
Lord Skidelsky, the internationally renowned historian and professor of political economy at Warwick University, has revealed how he failed an A-level paper this summer because of his "inability to develop a coherent argument". Robert Skidelsky, 64, author of an award-winning biography of John Maynard Keynes, says his attempts to sit an A-level in Russian, the birth language of his parents and a late love in his life, were dented when the exam board Edexcel gave him 26 out of 90 marks for an analysis of Russian unemployment.

Raise investment to £1bn, MRC chief tells MPs
Investment in British medical research should be doubled to nearly £1 billion, Colin Blakemore, the new head of the Medical Research Council, told MPs yesterday. His plea is likely to be backed by the Commons' science and technology committee despite its criticisms earlier this year over the council's priorities and the way it handled grant applications from researchers.
( Guardian )

A little local difficulty
Exploration of the different views of neighbouring universities Exeter and Plymouth to the government's top-up fees plan.
( Guardian )

Letters and comments
Top-up fees are a good idea handled badly. ( Financial Times )
Four letters on the commercial exploitation of research by universities. ( Times )

The meek shall inherit a shorter lifespan
Research has shown that timidity could seriously shorten your lifespan - at least if you are a rat. A report from the University of Chicago in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that rats with neophobia are 60 per cent more likely to die at any time than bolder ones. The journal Neurology reports on another study today that shows people prone to anxiety or depression are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.
( Guardian )

Cot deaths not affected by sleeping position
The fall in cot deaths seen around the world over the past two decades may be the result of the natural variation witnessed in all diseases. Writing in Archives of Diseases in Childhood , a specialist in infectious diseases says cot deaths in Sweden are rising again to the levels experienced in the early 1970s, long before the campaign to sleep babies on their backs began. He claims figures from Australia show a similar picture.
( Independent )

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