Today's news

March 19, 2004

Education cash not enough, say universities
Charles Clarke, the education secretary, yesterday set out his three-year budget, confirming that an extra £8.5 billion would be shared between nurseries, schools, colleges and universities between 2005 and 2008. He promised universities that funding per student would be maintained in real terms. However, Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, argued that £8.8 billion extra funding was needed for universities alone to repair their crumbling buildings and improve their spending per student. Mr Clarke also defended as "necessary and right" the move to cut 1,460 jobs at the Department for Education and Skills, a reduction of nearly one-third of staff.
( Independent, Financial Times )

Lecturers call off exam action
The Association of University Teachers has called off a dispute that threatened exams after an offer that would mean an average pay rise of more than 12 per cent over two years. The offer will be recommended at next week's annual conference in Scarborough.
( Guardian )

Top-up fees to hit lower pay families
A report on the changes planned for 2006 compiled by the Commons library shows that students from families with incomes of £25,000 a year, after deductions for pension contributions, will suffer most from the annual fees of £3,000 that most universities plan to charge. They will miss out on increased government support through means-tested fee remission designed to protect the poorest students. It is also likely that their children will fall outside the category of students for whom universities will be expected to provide bursaries.
( Daily Telegraph )

English students face fees rise in Scotland
Students from England wanting to go to universities north of the border face paying more in tuition fees under plans being drawn up by the Scottish Executive. Scottish ministers are poised to abolish the present arrangement whereby students from England doing four-year degrees at Scottish universities have their fees for the fourth year paid by the devolved executive. The cash saved - about £6 million a year - will instead be used to pay higher bursaries to Scottish students studying in England to help them pay upfront the new variable fees south of the border, due to be introduced in 2006.
( Times )

Study shows species diversity is in decline
Research revealing a sharp decline in Britain's plants, birds and butterflies supports the hypothesis that the world is experiencing the sixth mass extinction in its history, scientists said yesterday. The study, in the latest issue of the journal Science , offers the first comprehensive evidence that species diversity is decreasing in the UK. The researchers, from the Natural Environment Research Council and elsewhere, blame chiefly the degradation and fragmentation of habitats.
( Financial Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Times )

Researchers prove prion role in disease
Two independent research groups have proved that infectious proteins called prions can produce different strains of diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people and BSE in cattle, on their own without carrying any genetic content. Research teams at the University of California, San Francisco, and Florida State University have shown conclusively that the strains can be accounted for by the ability of the same protein to fold into different shapes.
( Financial Times )

Web craze for short course in literature
Can you really distil the great works of literature into a paragraph? The exercise is as old as the hills but now the craze is said to be sweeping the internet. One site, I Love Books, has challenged readers to summarise a classic in less than 25 words. Though the results do not constitute "a bluffer's guide" to the literary canon, the site's users have gone at the game with gusto. For example: J. R. R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings : "Little guys go to a lot of trouble to get rid of stolen jewellery." The Bible: "Good opening chapter. Main character arrives halfway through but gets killed off early. Some decent (if dated) commandments. Cracking ending. Slightly too open to interpretation." And, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice : "High-principled woman who is not so superficial as to be taken in by wealth and good looks chooses the handsome shaggable one anyway."
( Daily Telegraph )

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