Magazine article Times Higher Education

The Week in Higher Education

Magazine article Times Higher Education

The Week in Higher Education

Article excerpt

It felt as though this was the week the world of front-line politics finally caught up with the stark warnings that have been detailed in these pages for some time - that the £9,000 fee system is unsustainable. Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, urged ministers to "come clean" on the implications of the "student loan time bomb" after it was revealed last week that, on current estimates, 45 per cent of student loans will not be repaid. That followed a report from London Economics - featured in Times Higher Education last week - that warned that the government was rapidly approaching the "break-even point" at which the new system costs more than the old one of direct grants and lower fees. David Willetts, the universities and science minister, refused to rule out increasing tuition fees beyond £9,000 post-2015, but dismissed worries about the rising loan write-off rate, saying the estimates will tend to "bounce around" depending on earnings forecasts over the next 35 years. Labour's resurgence of interest in the cost of student loans came as leader Ed Miliband hinted on ITV1's The Agenda that the party may make a "radical offer" at the next general election on fees. Coincidence?

A scientist has attacked the Daily Mail's "underlying sexism" after it implied that her appearance on Newsnight was only because of her gender and race. Hiranya Peiris, reader in astronomy at University College London and an expert on the study of the cosmic microwave background, was invited on to the BBC Two show to discuss last week's findings about the origins of the universe alongside The Sky at Night presenter Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who is an honorary research associate in UCL's department of physics and astronomy. But pseudonymous diary columnist Ephraim Hardcastle suggested that the invitation to the women to talk about work by "white, male" American scientists was because the show's "Guardian-trained editor, Ian Katz, is keen on diversity". Dr Peiris told The Independent that the comments had caused "a lot of emotional suffering" and undermined women's efforts, saying Hardcastle had "reduce[d] my career to my gender and skin colour". …

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