Today's news

March 16, 2007

Applicants must say if parents are graduates
The sons and daughters of graduates with good jobs face extra hurdles as they compete for university places under rules announced yesterday. From next year applicants will be asked to declare whether their parents attended university, as part of the Government's drive to increase the number of students from poor backgrounds. The information will be sent to admission tutors alongside details of the ethnicity of candidates and their parents' occupations, material previously kept confidential. Influential university vice-chancellors say universities, under pressure from the Government to improve their social mix, need the information to help them identify students with potential who do not appear as good as others on paper because of social disadvantage.
The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Times, The Scotsman

Call for extension of student loans
Interest-free student loans should be extended to the 400,000 people using the further education system, an influential think-tank claims today. Students enrolled at further education colleges should be able to borrow the money to pay for courses equivalent to A levels on the same terms as university students, who repay their debt only after they have finished their courses and are earning more than £15,000 a year. The idea was one part of a proposed overhaul of the government's skills and training policies, which the Institute of Public Policy Research argues are letting down learners and encouraging the promotion of qualifications that do little to enhance individuals' skills.
The Financial Times

Nationwide and RBS tipped as bidders for student debt
Nationwide Building Society and Royal Bank of Scotland were seen as front runners to buy up to £16 billion of student debt that the Chancellor is planning to offload. Both institutions have bought portfolios of student loans from the Government in the past, attracted by the reliable income streams and the government subsidies. The Treasury yesterday declined to comment on reports that it was looking to privatise the portfolio of the Student Loans Company, a business with 3.2 million borrowers.
The Times

GCSEs and A levels are too easy, watchdog warns
Exams in key subjects have become easier in recent years, says a report today that will reignite the debate over alleged dumbing down in education. The Government's own exams watchdog says that GCSEs and A levels in English, psychology and music have become increasingly predictable. In psychology - one of the most popular courses at A level - course work for sixth-formers is now too easy and poorer quality students are passing the exams, the QCA report says.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times

Rise in students 'justifies top up fees'
The rise in university applications has vindicated the Government's decision to charge students top-up tuition fees, MPs were told yesterday. Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said critics of the policy should "move on" as more people sought places on higher education courses. Figures from admissions service Ucas last month showed a 6.4 per cent rise in applications to universities this year. The increase followed a drop last year when top-up fees of £3,000 per year were introduced in England for the first time.
The Daily Mail

Debate on Muslim extremism is being stifled, says academic
An academic at the centre of a row over censorship last night accused Britain of being the worst country for stifling debate on Muslim extremism. Matthias Küntzel, a German author and political scientist, was due to give a lecture at Leeds University on Islamic anti-Semitism but it was cancelled after complaints from Muslim students. Last night the academic, who has made similar speeches around the world, said the move smacked of a growing trend in Britain to silence "controversial thinking'' on issues surrounding Muslims.
The Daily Telegraph

Ocean heat blamed for the mysterious disappearance of glaciers
A mysterious phenomenon is causing four major glaciers in the Antarctic to shrink in unison, causing a significant increase in sea levels, scientists have found. The rise in atmospheric temperatures caused by global warming cannot account for the relatively rapid movement of the glaciers into the sea, but scientists suspect that warmer oceans may be playing a role. "There is a possibility that heat from the ocean is somehow flowing in underneath these glaciers, but it is not related to global warming," said glaciologist Duncan Wingham of University College London.
The Independent

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