Today's news

February 4, 2004


Welsh colleges braced for English invasion
Universities in Wales are bracing themselves for a flood of English applicants trying to avoid top-up fees in 2006. The Welsh Assembly has decided that English students, like their Welsh counterparts, will only have to pay the standard fee - currently £1,125 - for that year. The Welsh Assembly has ruled out the introduction of variable top-up fees in the lifetime of the current administration, which ends in 2007. However, Jane Davidson, Welsh minister for education, has said options would be kept open for later. In Scotland, ministers are awaiting the outcome of a review, expected to be completed in February, before deciding whether English students could also escape higher tuition fees north of the border.
( Financial Times )

Blair concedes fees failure during Commons grilling
The prime minister admitted yesterday that he could have handled better the policy announcements on university tuition top-up fees and the abolition of the 1,400-year-old post of lord chancellor. Mr Blair was grilled by the Commons liaison committee over the growing role of the No 10 policy unit in developing the government's policies.
( Daily Telegraph )

Letter: Students from Europe
The minister for higher education, Alan Johnson, writes that fee loans for EU students are expected to account for around £30 million - a figure that is £870 million less than the figure quoted in a report by The Times education editor on January 29.
( Times )

European plan for man on Mars
The European Space Agency said yesterday it planned to put a man on the Moon by 2020 and on Mars by 2030. French, German or Italian astronauts could be walking on Mars within three decades - but Britain remains opposed to manned space flight, only supporting the earliest stages, which involve robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars. In 2011 or 2014, the European space agency will attempt to bring back rock and soil from Mars to Earth for analysis.
( Daily Telegraph, Times )

Comet disaster throws new light on dark age
Studies of tree rings show that the Earth underwent a series of very cold summers around 536-540 AD, a Cardiff University team reports in the journal Astronomy and Geophysics . They believe the chill was caused by a comet exploding in the Earth's upper atmosphere. Historical references from the Dark Ages are sparse, but what records there are tell of crop failures and summer frosts.
( Daily Telegraph )

Giant dinosaur toe found in Dorset quarry
A 10-inch-long bone found in a Dorset quarry has been identified as the toe of a giant Titanosaurus. The 140 million year-old toe is the first evidence that the rare plant-eating dinosaurs which grew up to 60ft (18.28m) long once grazed the British Jurassic coast. The bone was found at Bowers Quarry on the Isle of Portland.
( Times )

Whoah, we're going to Ibiza - just to study
Health officials and academics from Liverpool John Moores University have found that one in four men and one in seven women had sex with more than one person during an average 10-day stay in Ibiza. The figures were collected from 1,500 holidaymakers as they waited for flights back to Britain over three summers. Writing in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases , the researchers say their findings are important because there is very little information about the sexual behaviour of young people abroad, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, despite media coverage of clubbing resorts.
( Guardian, Times )

World's tallest tower to power Outback solar greenhouse
A plan to build the world's tallest tower on the edge of the Australian Outback moved a step closer to reality yesterday when experts ruled it commercially viable. The tower would stand at the centre of a state-of-the-art solar electricity plant, and would be 1,000m (3,280ft) high. A solar greenhouse with a 7.2km (4.5 miles) circumference will be spread around the base of the tower and heat air so that it is about 30C (86F) hotter than air at the top. The temperature difference will create an updraft of about 50kmh (30mph), which will drive a bank of 32 turbines. Designers hope that the station will generate enough electricity for 200,000 homes.
( Times )

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