Today's news

March 15, 2004


V-cs set to break ranks over top-up fees
Up to 20 universities are planning to break ranks with their national body and make a last-ditch appeal to MPs to dump the principle of variable top-up fees. The renegade vice-chancellors, mainly representing former polytechnics, intend to make their plea against variable fees in an open letter in defiance of Universities UK, their umbrella body, which backs the higher education bill. They are hoping for support from several "old" universities.
( Times )

Colleges dumbing down by degrees
The number of first-class honours awarded by Britain's top universities has increased by 50 per cent in five years, an answer to a parliamentary question by Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott revealed yesterday. The massive rise has prompted claims of a "dumbing down" that is rendering the education system meaningless. More than 15 per cent of students now graduate with the highest degree award from Russell Group universities compared with just over 10 per cent in 1998.
( Daily Mail )

Scots graduate bankruptcies rise
Nearly 1,400 Scottish graduates have been declared bankrupt since student loans were introduced in 1990. Figures from the student loan company show that 429 Scottish graduates have been declared bankrupt in the past year alone.
( Times )

High-level schism opens up at Royal Academy
A row has broken out over the proposed destruction of an acclaimed series of Victorian paintings on a ceiling at the Royal Academy of Art, to "reveal" an earlier masterpiece. The designs painted by John Diblee Crace in the 1890s have not been seen since they were covered up in white emulsion paint in the 1920s. However, the RA wishes to scrape off up to 17 layers of white paint - and all traces of the Crace decorative scheme - to reveal the ceiling's very first paintings, which are nearly two centuries older.
( Guardian )

Leonardo accredited with first plastic
Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale in Tuscany, who has researched hundreds of Leonardo da Vinci's documents, drawings and notes, has discovered that the inventor's manuscripts contain instructions for making a material similar to plastic or unbreakable glass, long before the oil and petrochemical industry took off.
( Times )

Dairy products to be made healthier
Milk, butter, cheese and other "full-fat" dairy products that are blamed for increasing obesity rates in Britain could soon be made much healthier for human consumption with a simple change to the diet of cattle. Research by agricultural scientists has shown that the amount of saturated fat in cow's milk drops significantly if cattle are fed a larger proportion of rapeseed oil. The findings, which are subject to further clinical trials, are published this week in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture .
( Times )

Higher education items in the weekend press
- Universities will be made to pay back students who have complaints about their courses upheld. ( Sunday Telegraph )
- British science will receive a boost this week as both the government and industry prepare to announce a number of groundbreaking initiatives. ( Sunday Telegraph )
- Napier University in Edinburgh is planning to install a huge array of solar panels to provide it with energy. ( Scotland on Sunday )
- Hefce predicts that the number of students from the countries joining the EU in May attending UK universities will rise from 6,000 to 20,000 by the end of the decade. ( Financial Times , February 13)

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