Today's news

March 30, 2004


Clarke fights friend to avoid defeat
Fresh concessions on student top-up fees aimed at winning over Labour's rebels were promised by Charles Clarke last night as his battle to stave off defeat in the Commons tomorrow became increasingly personal. The education secretary accused the leader of the revolt - Ian Gibson, his friend, constituency neighbour and fellow Norwich City supporter - of colluding with the Conservatives to defeat the government while not understanding the consequences of what he was doing. Mr Clarke's office insisted that relations with Dr Gibson were cordial. But his friend denied cooperating with the Tories and rejected Mr Clarke's claims about the effect of his amendment.
( Times )

Last-minute bid to save top-up fees
Charles Clarke, made last minute "clarifications" about his top up fees proposals yesterday in a letter to Peter Bradley and Ian Whitehead, two Labour backbenchers central to a deal between the government and the rebels. Mr Clarke wrote that the government would support an amendment tabled by Mr Bradley that would prevent the proposed cap on top up fees being raised by more than the rate of inflation after 2010 without an affirmative vote in the Commons and the Lords. He also agreed to back an amendment imposing the duty on the secretary of state to require the funding council to set and enforce the cap.
( Guardian )

University heads' plea over fees
The heads of 15 universities and colleges have urged the government to reconsider variable tuition fees. In a letter to the Guardian , the group says universities setting fees will create a two-tier system. The signatories include the vice-chancellors of the following institutions: Wolverhampton; Southampton Institute; Sunderland; Coventry; London South Bank; Glasgow Caledonian; Leeds Metropolitan; Central Lancashire; Kingston; Bournemouth; Bradford; Bolton Institute; East London; Gloucestershire and Glamorgan.
( BBC News online, Guardian )

Kill bill, vol 2
Speculation on whether the government's higher education plans will founder on the rocks of variable tuition fees.
( Guardian )

Thunderer: study hard and get a McJob
As the prime minister fights to introduce the variable tuition fees that the expansion in student numbers has made necessary, he need not look to bookish theory for evidence that the 50 per cent participation target is demented. Devolved Scotland has already proved that sending one school-leaver in two to university is a catastrophe. The result has been a 60 per cent increase in the rate of graduate unemployment.
( Times )

A lesson from America
Peter Lampl argues that funding changes proposed for higher education do not go far enough. To halt that decline of our universities, he recommends looking to the US for answers.
( Guardian )

A generation betrayed by degrees
Stephen Glover accuses school standards minister David Miliband of self-deception, to imagine that the government is producing a race of super-students who are going to take over the world. The children of "the Blair generation" will be taking dumbed down school exams before attending an underfunded university, that, if it is the best in the country, will not be one of the best in the world, he comments.
( Daily Mail )

Police drop Hawking assault case
Detectives investigating claims that Stephen Hawking, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, has been assaulted by his wife dropped their inquiry last night.
( Times, Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph )

Cambridge women flirt with sex change
New Hall, Cambridge has decided not to open its doors to men following discussions with the students and fellows. The call for a referendum on the issue was easily defeated at a private meeting at the college, which is preparing to celebrate its golden jubilee.
( Times )

Healing hand at Ruskin's helm
A profile of Audrey Mullender, the new principal of Ruskin College, Oxford - a unique college that has had a rough passage.
( Guardian )

Methane may be a clue to life on Mars
The presence of methane in the atmosphere of Mars has been confirmed by an instrument aboard the European Space Agency orbiter Mars Express . Vittorio Formisano, the scientist responsible for the instrument that made the finding, said that the source could be either volcanic activity or life of biological origin.
( Times, Daily Telegraph )

Bat sonar identifies insects, fruit and trees
The radar system used by bats to navigate in the dark is more sophisticated than previously known and can even help the flying mammals to distinguish between different types of tree. Researchers from the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich say in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .
( Independent )

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