Today's news

April 1, 2004

Ministers see off rebels in bill triumph

Labour rebels failed to muster enough support for an amendment to replace the government's plans for variable tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year with a fixed-rate charge for students. Ministers saw the bill pass its third reading in the Commons with their core proposals intact despite opposition from the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Labour backbench opponents. The debate now enters the Lords, where the government will rely on 182 Labour peers and the majority of the 180 crossbenchers - lords with no party-political allegiance - to get the bill through without amendment.
( Times Higher )

Roundup of higher education bill vote coverage
- Ministers survive tuition fees revolt as Scottish MPs stay loyal. ( Guardian )
- Blair's latest wing-and-a-prayer victory on top-up fees. ( Times )
- Top-up fee rebels test Blair again. ( Times )
- MPs seduced by hope of end to class war. ( Times )
- Verbification? It must be an education debate. ( Times )
- Blair defeats tuition fees challenge by rebel MPs. ( Financial Times )
- University top-up fee rebels cut Blair majority to 28. ( Daily Telegraph )
- Top-up fees rebellion fails as bill is passed with majority of 28. ( Daily Telegraph )

More universities use admission test
The Royal Veterinary College and Bristol University's veterinary school will ask candidates to sit a test in the autumn for admission in 2005. They will use the Biomedical Admissions Test designed by UCLES, the exam group. It was introduced last year at Oxford's medical school and for medical and veterinary candidates at Cambridge. The Royal Free and University College London medical school also uses the BMAT papers, designed to test aptitude and thinking skills.
( Daily Telegraph )

Universe could be teeming with life, says study
One in 20 stars in the night sky could be orbited by Earth-like planets capable of supporting alien life, according to a British study. Barrie Jones of the Open University told the Royal Astronomical Society's conference in Milton Keynes: "We now think that at least 10 per cent of stars in the Earth's backyard have planetary systems," he said. "If only half of these are able to sustain a rocky planet in the habitable zone, it means that one in 20 could harbour life. It is possible that the universe is teeming with life."
( Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Times Higher )

Dialect explosion signals decline of BBC English
Linguistic experts say that greater social mobility is significantly reducing the vernacular from places such as Yorkshire and the North-East. At the same time immigrants to Europe, America and Australia are creating new dialects by mixing their native tongue with the new languages they speak. The trend, resulting in varieties of English with Caribbean or Asian influence, will be discussed at an international conference at Newcastle upon Tyne University today.
( Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Times )

DNA of sewer rat deciphered
British and American scientists have deciphered the genetic code of the brown rat. "The humble lab rat has made inestimable contributions to experimental science, drug development and human health in recent years," said Chris Ponting, one of the UK Medical Research Council scientists in the team that reports in Nature today.
( Guardian, Daily Telegraph )

Scientists identify a first gene for autism
A gene involved in autism has been identified by a team from New York. But it is probably only one of half a dozen genes needed for the condition to occur. The team members report in the American Journal of Psychiatry that they found one variation in a particular gene to be more common in these families than in the general public.
( Times )

Academic named to competition post
Patricia Hewitt, trade and industry secretary, announced yesterday that Paul Geroski, a US-born academic, will replace Sir Derek Morris as chairman of the Competition Commission at the end of this month. He is professor of economics at the London Business School and already a deputy chairman at the commission.
( Financial Times )

Comment : Learning afresh
Universities will need to adapt swiftly to new conditions. ( Times )

Survival of the fittest : The secret of successful higher education mergers investigated. ( Independent )

Fighting talk : Baroness Blackstone's bold plans for the University of Greenwich. ( Independent )

A child of the 1960s : Profile of Paul Mackney, the general secretary of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education. ( Independent )

Obituary : David Oates, the archaeologist, died on March 22, aged 77. ( Independent )

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