Today's news

March 25, 2004

MPs square up over fees bill
Rebel Labour MPs will make their final attempt next week to force the government to abandon plans for variable tuition fees by tabling a radical amendment to the higher education bill. Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, revealed that the rebels will attempt to replace variable fees with a fixed fee when the bill returns to the Commons for its report stage and third reading next Wednesday after a month of clause-by-clause scrutiny by a committee of MPs. The rebels will propose turning the existing upfront £1,125 fee into a postgraduation charge, ditching the government's plan to allow universities to charge variable fees of up to £3,000 a year.
( Times Higher, Guardian, Times, Financial Times )

Chancellor appeals to MPs for top-up fees unity
Gordon Brown issued a fresh appeal to Labour MPs yesterday not to wreck plans to bring in university top-up fees, an issue on which the government faces another knife-edge Commons vote next week. Mr Brown told the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party yesterday that universities needed the revenue that would be generated by top-up fees.
( Independent )

Student film-makers spark huge police alert
Three media-studies undergraduates from Leeds Metropolitan University apologised yesterday for a coursework project that mobilised armed detectives, seven squad cars and a police helicopter. The students were left with the consolation that their fake armed robbery, organised for the short film module of a multimedia technology degree, had been undeniably realistic.
( Guardian )

Scientists reveal secrets of Grand National success
University of Liverpool vets have worked out how to narrow your odds on the Grand National at Aintree. They recommend placing bets on horses that have already raced the course and say that firm ground makes it easier for horses to clear Becher's Brook and make it over the final hurdle. The research was undertaken at the request of the Aintree organisers, specifically with the safety of the horses in mind.
( Guardian )

Gene that could be responsible for turning us into humans found
Scientists have discovered the precise mutation in a key gene found in all primates that allowed the evolution of man's large braincase. They believe that the loss of heavy jaw muscles which were attached to the skull was a crucial event that permitted human ancestors to acquire a larger brain and, with it, the attributes of human consciousness and language.
( Independent )

Darwin descendant aims to save Galapagos plants
The great-great-granddaughter of the naturalist Charles Darwin launched an appeal yesterday to help save the critically endangered plants of the Galapagos islands. Sarah Darwin, botanist and vice-president of the Galapagos Conservation Trust, says introduced fauna and flora, such as goats and blackberries, are overwhelming native species.
( Guardian )

Blunkett's web 'fiasco'
Why the plug is being pulled on the UK's £62 million e-university after only a year in operation.
( Independent )

Obituary : Keith Hopkins, historian, died on March 8 2004, aged 69. ( Times )

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