Today's news

January 21, 2004


Bristol to reject candidates who favour Oxbridge
The University of Bristol has admitted that applicants who put it second best to Cambridge face rejection in sought-after subjects. Application forms no longer identify the other universities to which candidates apply, but Eric Thomas, Bristol's vice-chancellor, said that admission tutors could often tell. Even the strongest candidate in English, history, economics or law, the most over-subscribed departments, may lose the chance of a place by disclosing that their first choice was not Bristol but Oxford or Cambridge.
( Daily Telegraph )

Tuition fee plan hailed as European role model
Charles Clarke's university tuition fee proposals were hailed yesterday as a role model for the rest of Europe in a survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The planwhich would allow universities to charge annual fees of up to £3,000, to be paid back once graduates are earning more than £15,000, was praised as "commendable".
( Financial Times )

Students expect £10K graduation debt
Current students expect to leave university with £10,000 debts and are borrowing more on credit cards. The annual survey of student life by Mori for Unite, the student accommodation provider, showed that more than half the students surveyed would still have chosen their university even if it had been charging top-up fees, but the majority was reversed when respondents were asked to consider their decision in the light of maximum £3,000 fees.
( Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent )

Blair won't raise top taxes to help students
The prime minister yesterday swept aside last-minute calls to defuse the crisis over university funding and student fees by raising top rates of income tax, warning that the rich would avoid paying more, and that he would not spend extra tax revenues on higher education anyway. Mr Blair insists that graduates must pay their fair share.
( Guardian )

Fees rebellion still big enough to defeat bill
At least 85 rebel Labour backbenchers are still determined to vote against Tony Blair's higher education reforms in next week's vote. Mr Blair needs to cut the number of Labour votes against to below 81, assuming all opposition MPs oppose the government, if he is to succeed at the bill's second reading.
( Financial Times )

Fees may unseat Clarke
Labour party chiefs fear that Charles Clarke will lose his Norwich South seat at the next election because of a backlash by students opposed to the education secretary’s plans for top-up tuition fees. Party strategists acknowledge that the rows over tuition fees and the war in Iraq have damaged support in middle-class seats generally and student towns in particular.
( Times )

Leading scientists condemn 'cowboy cloners'
Mainstream scientists have launched an assault on doctors who claim to carry out human cloning and on the publicity given to them. In an article published to mark the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Lord May, president of the Royal Society, yesterday called for "cowboy cloners" to be outlawed throughout the world, and 13 of Britain's leading researchers appealed to media editors not to give such prominent coverage to "maverick scientists" making unsubstantiated claims.
( Financial Times, Times )

Welsh students made to bite their tongue
Long-harboured suspicions that an A level in Welsh is undervalued by the English appear to have been confirmed by Bristol and Nottingham universities in their refusal to accept that it is a proper qualification. Two Welsh students who expected to get outstanding grades were told that their offers were conditional on their results in any subject other than Welsh. Offended, they have now decided to stay at home rather than study in England.
( Times )

Independent schools back A levels
Private school headteachers challenged the government over exam reform yesterday when they expressed scepticism over a proposed baccalaureate-style diploma. Publishing a blueprint for qualifications and the curriculum in secondary schools, the four independent school heads' groups urged moves to boost A-levels as part of a call for fewer but stronger exams. Coursework should be all but eliminated, they said.
( Guardian, Daily Telegraph )

UK student in US jail after airport bomb joke
A British student could face up to 15 years in jail after allegedly making a joke about having a bomb in her rucksack at an American airport. Samantha Marson, 21, from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, was arrested before boarding a London-bound British Airways flight from Miami on Saturday. She allegedly stated three times that she had bombs in her bag, sparking a full-scale terrorist alert and landing herself in jail.
( Guardian, Financial Times, Daily Mail, Independent, Times )

Student injured in bungee fire stunt
A bungee jumper was being treated for severe burns yesterday after setting himself alight in a stunt that went wrong. James Marples, 22, launched himself over a barrier on the 300ft-high Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Mr Marples, a student from Sheffield, who was thought to be wearing a flame-resistant suit, had apparently intended to jump, set himself on fire and then quickly cut his rope with a knife.
( Daily Telegraph, Times )

Mammoth skull unearthed in gravel pit
A palaeontologist from the Swindon-based Natural Environment Research Council has unearthed the skull of a predatory mammoth in a Gloucestershire gravel pit. The find is believed to date from around 50,000 years ago and is currently being radiometrically dated at a laboratory at University College London.
( Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Times )

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