Today's news

January 12, 2004


Cambridge seminars 'more like Grange Hill'
Growing financial problems at Cambridge University have forced dons to take seminars containing nearly 30 students. Ideally they should barely reach double figures. Academics say that the situation is more reminiscent of a struggling inner-city comprehensive than a world-class university, and shows the urgent need to boost revenues by introducing top-up fees. The difficulties have emerged in the School of Arts and Humanities, where funds for learning support have been cut by 32 per cent this year. One student, who says that she counted 29 students in her Italian translation class at the end of last term, said that it felt "more like Grange Hill than Brideshead Revisited ".
( Times )

MRC chief withdraws threat to resign
Colin Blakemore, head of the Medical Research Council, has withdrawn his threat to resign after receiving what he says is a huge wave of support from the government, scientists and the public for his defence of animal research. Professor Blakemore warned before Christmas that he had been left in an untenable position after a leaked decision by the government's senior honours committee not to consider him for an award because of his "controversial work on vivisection".
( Financial Times )

Concessions fail to win votes
A large number of the higher education bill’s opponents have been unmoved by concessions, according to George Mudie, the former Higher Education Minister who is co-ordinating the rebellion. He has compiled a computer spreadsheet that lists 107 Labour MPs as "firm" voters against the proposals. The MP for Leeds East also believes that a further 40 MPs count as "soft" backers who may damage the Government’s chances by abstaining. If the opposition parties all vote against the coming bill, 81 Labour votes against would defeat it.
( Times )

This is principle, not grudge, says top-up fees rebel
In an interview, Nick Brown, the former Labour chief whip, blames No 10 advisers for getting him sacked and getting top-up fees policy wrong. He expects to vote against the party leadership for the first time in his 20-year parliamentary career this month. He insists that the issue is one of principle, not a grudge.
( Times )

Scottish Tory MP will not vote on fees
The sole Conservative MP in Scotland, Peter Duncan, will not vote on the introduction of £3,000-a-year tuition fees for English universities, Michael Howard, the Tory leader, said yesterday. Mr Howard said it would be unacceptable if the government used the votes of Labour MPs in Scotland to avoid defeat on the Higher Education Bill, introducing the fees at universities in England.
( Daily Telegraph )

£400,000 advance for student's first novel
An 18-year-old author has received a £400,000 advance for her debut novel, one of the biggest deals for a young author in British publishing history. Helen Oyeyemi, a first-year student at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, struck a two-book deal with Bloomsbury between her A levels after the publisher was bowled over by her novel The Icarus Girl .
( Times )

Fees do not deter poor pupils study finds
Rebel MPs' fears that top-up fees will scare off potential students from poorer homes have been doused in a survey of how universities are funded in other countries. Seven of 13 leading democracies operate a variable-fees system in their universities that has resulted in increased enrolment in universities, researchers at the Department for Education and Skills determined.
( Independent )

IQ tests can tell your future
Intelligence tests can predict not only academic performance but also success in the world of work, a major study has indicated. Three US psychologists from the universities of Illinois and Minnesota argue that IQ tests measure more than quick-wittedness. They say in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that general cognitive ability exists and predicts a broad spectrum of important life outcomes, including academic achievement, health-related behaviours, social outcomes, job performance and creativity.
( Times )

Threat to technology licensing deals
Concerns for the future of lucrative licensing deals are spreading through the technology sector as it awaits new proposals for radical changes to European competition law. In May, the European Commission is poised to scrap the existing formulaic block exemption. Under the proposals, exclusive technology-transfer agreements between competitors will be exempt from competition rules only if their combined market share does not exceed 20 per cent of the relevant market.
( Financial Times )

Antarctic research base reopens after fire
British scientists have reopened their main research laboratory in Antarctica more than two years after it was destroyed by fire - a move that will allow them to track the impact of global warming on the continent's marine life.
( Guardian )

Deodorant chemicals linked to breast cancer
Scientists at the University of Reading have revealed evidence of a possible link between anti-perspirants and breast cancer. They found chemicals called parabens, used as preservatives in the underarm products, in cancerous breast tumours.
( Daily Mail, Times, Independent )

MBS retains its name in merger
The merged University of Manchester is to name its school of management Manchester Business School. The existing Manchester School of Business, Umist's Manchester School of Management, the Victoria University of Manchester's School of Accounting and Finance and the Institute of Innovation Research are joining forces to make the largest business school in the UK.
( Financial Times )

Higher education items in the weekend press
- Prime minister writes to rebels explaining why they should back top-up fees ( Observer, Sunday Times, Independent on Sunday, Mail on Sun day)
- Government plans to fast-track working-class students 'out-dated' ( Sunday Times )
- Clare College, Cambridge, successfully manages its investments ( Sunday Times )
- Northampton College develops course in making flat-pack furniture ( Independent on Sunday )
- Universities UK to conduct 'number-crunching' exercise over fears that some universities could lose out on top-up fees ( Guardian , 10 Jan)
- Concern that gap-year volunteers could drop in number ( Guardian , 10 January)
- Cambridge to cut entry standards for poorer students ( Daily Mail , 10 January)

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