Campaigners halt fees debate

Janine Cornwall & Edwin Cartlidge

THE GUARDIAN debate this week on the future of free education was dominated by a sit down protest when students from the Campaign for Free Education (CFE) invaded the stage chanting and holding banners. They called for mass demonstration against the governments plans for the introduction of the £1,000 tuition fee for HE students.


Campaign for Free Education protestors at the Guardian debate held in the Institute of Education Photo: Sarah Lee

Baroness Blackstone, the Minister of State for Education and Employment, was confronted with over thirty students from the CFE and the Socialist Workers party chanting: “Baroness Blackstone hear our say, free education here to stay. Tuition Fees no way, tax the rich and make them pay.”

Blackstone and Stephen Dorrell MP were surrounded with protesters from the Militant action for students and the Kingsway Students Union holding banners along with further chanting: “Labour say cut back, we say fuck that.”

As the protesters took possession of the podium they blamed Baroness Blackstone, claiming: “She has presided over the destruction of Higher Education in this country.” and described Stephen Dorrell as a “rampant Conservative” after expressing disgust at the irony that it was a Conservative putting the case against the government’s education reforms.

Stephen Dorrell, the shadow secretary for Education and Employment, proposed the motion that current government policy on funding will fail to achieve expansion in Higher Education.

Despite calls for a rational debate, both from the podium and the audience, the protesters proceeded to hold a sit-down occupation of the stage. Eventually they were persuaded to move when it was agreed that Jo Cardwell, Convenor of the CFE, would be given seven minutes to put across her view after the main speakers.

The audience, mainly students or HE workers, were less than impressed by the demonstration. Andy Charwood, a student at LSE said: “I think it says something about the general feeling that there are only 35 of them on stage. We can see the sort of thing that we can expect if they get elected in March to the NUS. The CFE has shown that it is ineffective in changing anything.”

Dorrell, the first to speak, immediately claimed: “I’m in favour of equitable access to Higher Education that is not just socially just but economically efficient. We cannot thrive if everyone who is able is not encouraged.”

He highlighted the inequality of access for students with the minimal entrance requirement of two A-Levels. 77% of students with high income backgrounds go into HE compared to only 44% of identical but less well off students. He also emphasised the need for what he called a “learning based society” and had heavy criticism for the Labour party for abolishing the grant despite Dearing’s recommendation that it is an essential component of HE access.

“You don’t increase access by abolishing the maintenance grant, which is the only aspect of funding directed at the lower income student. The introduction of fees is discriminating against the lower income student who will be £2,265 worse off. It is an extraordinary form of reverse discrimination which flies in the face of access.”

However, Blackstone pointed out: “they have more debt because they are receiving a bigger public subsidy.”

Blackstone immediately blamed the Conservative party’s handling of the higher education sector for the current crisis in funding. “I agree that the State should contribute. It is also right that students should share in the cost of those courses.”

Blackstone estimated that the amount saved by public funds by 2015 would be around a billion pounds. She refuted Dorrell’s claim that the Labour Party was expecting the Dearing inquiry to recommend the abolition of grants.

She also made an attack on Dorrell’s current position in the light of progressive cuts in education under the Conservatives, referring to Dorrell as one “who only recently has come to champion the cause of the less well off.”

Despite figures from UCAS which show the number of applications has significantly fallen since last year she claimed: “I really fail to see that tuition fees will discourage those from lower income backgrounds.”

Blackstone emphasised the government’s commitment to “equitable access”,stating: “I want to stress how serious we are about upholding the principle that students are accepted on academic merit and not on the ability to pay. We will not break it.”

She instead made clear that the government’s priority was to get those from lower income backgrounds into sixth form colleges in order to enable all students to get the grades they need to get into University.

Jo Cardwell, an NUS NEC member, attacked government ministers and Douglas Trainer, the NUS president, for letting the cuts go through. She challenged Trainer to give back the £20,000 that the government spent on his education.

Cardwell called for the government to “kick out the market from education and to encourage students on the basis that they have the ability to learn not the ability to pay.” She won applause by adding: “We are going to have a shoddy dome to represent Britain in the Millennium, we will not have a good education system.”

From the audience Douglas Trainer spoke for abstention on the issue of funding and criticised the protest, describing it as “blackmail”. He attacked both political parties, saying: “You got us in to the Higher Education crisis we are in now. You all made a mess of it as far as we’re concerned.”

In a surprise move Trainer instantly suspended Cardwell from the NUS executive although he is not permitted to do this under the NUS constitution. Cardwell, who is standing for the post of National Secretary at the forthcoming NUS conference said: “This panic move shows how scared the NUS leadership are of United for Free Education. It’s an insult to basic democracy.”

The government have not officially designated the revenue from fees for improving HE, despite Dorrell’s calls for confirmation from Baroness Blackstone. Neither have they made definite plans for ring fencing the price of a degree. By the year 1999 it is proposed that student grants are abolished and students could end up with between an estimated £15,000 to £20,000 worth of debt on graduation or even more for longer degrees such as medicine or teacher training.

The debate concluded with a two to one vote in favour of the motion: “The Government’s policy on student funding will not achieve the national requirement to expand higher education.”

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Student Loan Company applications rise 5%

Priya Puee

THE STUDENT Loans Company Annual report for the previous academic year has highlighted that the number of student applications has risen from 59% to 64%.

Alison Arnot, press officer for the student loans committee stated that the “company worked for the welfare of the students,” and that the rising number of applications reflects the efficiency by which the loans are administered.

Currently students can apply for loans and expect to receive them within one month providing all criteria are met and the correct identification and bank documents are presented to the relevant departments within each university.

Many students take advantage of the loan even if they do not need the money.

Placing the money in a high interest account in order to make a profit on the loan is common practice among students throughout the country. Many see this as a sound investment considering the current rate of interest on the loan is 2.6%.

However, it is widely suggested that students are increasingly taking out a loan because of real financial hardship.

Evidence of student poverty is particularly rife in London, where the cost of living and travelling is extremely high. At present a zone one and two travel card cost just in excess of £15, and the average weekly rent is around £60.

One student of the University of London commented: “if you’re not in halls or at home, living and travelling costs are inexorable in London.”

Student reliance on the loans system has risen in the past seven years since the student grants were frozen in 1991.

The annual report by the student loans company fails to acknowledge the increase in student poverty. In spite of this Alison Arnot maintains the Student Loans Company “does understand student poverty.”

Reports of an increased number of student loan borrowers comes amid speculation that the Student Loans Company has had to write off the re-payments of students who had given false credentials. It is estimated that the company is owed almost £90 million by ‘elusive’ borrowers. The Student Loans Company is currently endeavouring to track down these graduates and retrieve the money.

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Claims of mass student plagiarism from the Web

Nick Bardsley

A NEW form of plagiarizing essays was trumpeted in the pages of the Guardian On Campus section, last week.

Kalpana Limbachia, of Thames Valley University, claimed to have uncovered mass cheating by students downloading essays from across the globe, via the Internet. However, while Limbachia found several students that were tempted, there seemed no hard evidence that such cheating does occur.

Lee Devlin, a former welfare officer at Cartmel College explained to London Student: “There may be masses of essays around the world, but are they the right answers to your question? The student union essay bank is more likely to have a useful essay to pinch. Lecturers have their own pet questions which usually stay the same.”

Against this view, those interviewed by Limbachia assert that large numbers of students are out there getting away with it because it is ‘so easy’. Yet even these sources admit they would not cheat, not out of principle, but because they would be afraid of being caught.

However, this is an opportunity to obtain new material for those who do cheat.

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UNL Union shelves plans to introduce ecstacy testing


Photo: Annemarie Lean-Vercoe

Robert Vahey

PLANS TO introduce Ecstasy testing at the University of North London Students Union have been shelved after concerns that the idea could be misconstrued as condoning the use of the drug.

Union president Aiden McDonald explained that the idea had been to give students pre-addressed envelopes which they could send off to a drugs testing centre in Switzerland, to discover whether they were safe for consumption.

Mr McDonald, who categorically denied the promotion of Ecstasy abuse, explained that there was a hard-hitting information sheet included with the envelope. He said “We do not advise using ecstasy but if after all this information, you decide that you are going to take the drug anyway, it’s a good idea to have it tested”.

The plans have had to be shelved however after they attracted adverse publicity.

Mr McDonald said “There would be legal problems because the Royal Mail would have to act as a courier”. There has also been wide concern that drug use was being promoted by the Student’s Union, a reputation UNL is keen to avoid.

The idea for a testing system was backed by the drugs awareness group “Release”. Ciaron O’Hagan, Dance Outreach Co-ordinator explained “The police test pills and the odd Ph.D student tests pills, but there is still limited information on the substances contained in Ecstasy.”

Mr O’Hagan further compared testing in this country with that in the Netherlands, where they have set up a Drugs Information Monitoring System (DIMS), allowing drug users to bring their pills into a testing institute.

This enabled authorities to calculate the number of dangerous pills in circulation and to issue a warning to that effect. Mr O’Hagan called for a similar system to be set up in Britain. He said “Despite ten years of consumption we are still way behind.”

Mr O’Hagan scoffed at suggestions that such a testing system would encourage drug abuse “We need to encourage intelligent debate and intelligent reasoning. Drug users need accurate up to date information.”

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King's sleaze society caught out at last minute

Nick Bardsley

KING'S SPORTS and Societies Board has overturned an earlier decisionj to ratify a ‘Gentlemen’s Viewing Society’, dedicated to watching pornographic films and holding events with an ‘erotic theme’. The Board ratified the proposed society’s constitution last month amidst claims that King’s would be endorsing hard-core porn. Rupert Matthews and Richard Silburn (pictured below R and L), President and Treasurer of GVSOC, stated that the society was designed to ‘raise awareness of the beauty of the human form’.

Sensationally, the society was ratified with the help of the Presidents of the Jewish and Christian Unions. But the next meeting of the board was better attended, and the original decision was kicked into touch.

 


UCL fight back after accusations that it is more elitist than any other university in Britain

Janine Cornwall

UCL HAS REFUTED claims that it is top of the league of elitist admissions policies. According to an article published last week in The Financial Times,UCL has the lowest proportion of comprehensive students in the country. UCL have fought back, calling the article “A nasty and insidious piece of journalism”, and claim the figures represent a distorted view of the reality of their admissions from the state sector.

According to the article by Simon Targett, redbrick universities are becoming increasingly elitist institutions in order to compete with the established institutions of Oxbridge. UCL,which he refers to as one of the “bastions of privilege” to rival the ancient universities, is highlighted as having the smallest proportion, at sixteen per cent, of comprehensive pupils gaining entrance. This figure, which is the lowest percentage in the country, has been deemed misleading.

The investigation did not include any other feeder institutions in the state sector such as sixth form colleges, further education colleges or access courses. His attacks which also extend to Durham University and Edinburgh point to an increasing elitism amongst redbrick universities. Targett explained his figures by competition amongst universities to join an unofficial American style ‘Ivy League’ of top colleges.

UCL has reacted angrily to the report,which they describe as dangerously misleading. Patrick Edward, press officer at UCL, told London Student: “It was a complete load of bollocks. Last year the undergraduate intake from the state sector to UCL totalled 41%. The fact of the matter is that comprehensives contribute only a part of our state intake.”

Targett’s claim that UCL has ordered inquiries into how to widen access was completely denounced by Edward who said: “As far as the enquiry is concerned it is a complete and utter nonsense with knobs on.”

Edward said UCL was concerned about the underrepresentation of state students “UCL is approaching that issue. We’re by no means resting on our laurels. We’ve had a radical egalitarian tradition that we’re proud to continue.”

According to the report the increasing elitism of many institutions can be gauged from the rising offers grades in many universities. The typical Oxbridge offer of two As and one B is becoming more typical in other institutions.

The figures seem to exonerate Oxford and Cambridge from recent criticism of the high proportion of privately educated students they admit. Both universities have recently come under attack from the Dearing report as well as the government for their expensive collegate system. Whereas 45% of Cambridge students and an even higher 47% at Oxford were taken from independent schools, the figure for UCL in 1996 stood at only 27%.

Despite the lower percentage of comprehensive students in UCL, figures for the intake in 1996 included 22% from government funded schools and 19% from state sector sixth form and FE colleges.

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Student who ran hard-core porn web site from home is convicted

Nick Bardsley

SCOTLAND YARD’s vice squad claimed a major victory against global pornography after a student from Preston, Lancashire, was convicted of publishing obscene images on the Internet. This is an important first case of a person being successfully prosecuted for publishing hard-core pornography in Britain from Internet sites based outside of British territory.

Student Timothy Spring operated out of his bedroom at his parents’ home. It is not clear whether 20-year-old Spring is a student at the Preston based University of Central Lancashire or not; UCLAN declined to comment on the affair.

A police raid on the Spring family home turned up a cache of over 5,000 computer disks containing lewd images, including several hundred images of paedophilia. As a consequence of the possession of this material, Spring was charged with the new offence of ‘downloading obscene articles’ from the Internet.

The student, who admitted to four charges of publishing obscene material and six charges of making indecent photographs of children, set up sites in both America and Holland in an attempt to circumvent UK anti-pornography legislation. However, Spring’s use of a computer in Britain to transfer images back and forth meant that he was still in breach of British law. In addition, other material found was also illegal and would have constituted grounds for charges alone.

Although Spring does not seem to have used any university facilities, this case may cause concern amongst the Joint Academic Network. JANET has already indicated that it wants to clamp down on student Internet use for security reasons. They may wish to reassure themselves that pornography is not being peddled by university students in the UK.

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Holloway students victim of hit and run

Anne Goodliffe

A ROYAL Holloway student has died after suffering horrific injuries in a hit and run accident last September. Shahjehan Younus, 26, was in the final year of his BSc in Computer Science when he was knocked down in Thorpe Road, Chertsey on September 30th. Shah was taken to St. Peters Hospital, Chertsey when a passing motorist discovered him ten hours after the accident had occurred. He had suffered severe head and pelvic injuries.

Two weeks ago Shah was moved to the hospital’s Elliot Ward and had appeared to be recovering. His sister Iffat, 24, said: “He had started to respond: he had been opening his eyes and moving his arms.”

The family are issuing a formal complaint concerning his death. His mother Azmat said: “They did not look after him properly. He was a delicate patient and he was treated very roughly.” The hospital has extended their sympathy to the family and have said that they will be fully investigating any points of complaint about his care.

A 44 year old van driver from Shepperton was questioned by officers but was not charged. The police have been investigating since September, but no case has yet been brought to court. This is the second tragedy to hit the Younus family in the past two years. Shah’s father was shot dead while working as a surgeon in Saudi Arabia. He was killed by the grief-stricken father of a boy who died on Mr. Younus’s operating table. Now the family are also having to come to terms with the tragic death of their eldest son. Shah’s funeral took place at the Shahjehan Mosque in Woking and was attended by around 300 people. A friend of Shah’s said “He was an active member of Royal Holloway life. He was always involved in something.”

There has been another accident involving a Royal Holloway student this week. Kelly Duncan (24), a second-year English and Drama student, suffered severe head injuries after being knocked off her bike between the junction of London Road and Blakeham Lane in Englefield Green. She was taken to Ashford’s Accident and Emergency and has now been referred to the Royal Free Hospital in North London. Her condition is still very serious and her family are hoping that faith healers will be of some help to her.

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Suicide drama as hospital chopper lands in UCL's quad

Jasper Credland

THERE WAS a dramatic airborne visitor to the main University College quad last Friday as an air ambulance, painted a vivid red, landed unexpectedly at around 2:30 p.m. Crowds were quick to gather and watch as a doctor and paramedic team scrambled out of the helicopter, which was sporting a huge Virgin logo, and hurried away to their patient.


Photo: Adam Ohringer
They were responding to a 999 call about a suicide-attempt under a Circle Line train at Euston square tube station. According to the pilot, Alistair McGill, this was the third attempted suicide they had been called to that morning.

McGill went on to explain that they could normally be airborne within two or three minutes of receiving a call at their base at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Even in the whole area which they cover they would only be flying for about five minutes. The most taxing part was then to find a suitable landing space as close to the scene of the accident as possible. In this case it had been UCL’s sleepy, Friday afternoon centre.

The air ambulance crew have ‘Class A’ clearance, allowing them to land anywhere they consider necessary.

Matt, a third year physics student at UCL stated that he thought “it is amazing that the air ambulance can respond so quickly; who would have ever thought it could have landed in the quad? But it’s nice to see this space used so effectively.”

The scheme is operated from the Royal London Hospital in conjunction with the London Ambulance services.

The one helicopter, which covers the entire area within the M25, is only called to trauma cases, where a doctor is an invaluable addition to the usual paramedic team. The doctor and patient or patients are sometimes air-lifted out, but often, as in this case, they are taken to the nearest suitable hospital.

Asked whether he ever found his work distressing, Mr. McGill, who was formerly a Lloyds of London Broker, said that although it sometimes got “a bit messy” in the cramped cabin of the helicopter it was vital for him to be concentrated on getting to his destination as fast as he could.

Richard Branson’s Virgin corporation receives some very striking publicity through having their name emblazoned on the side of the helicopter, but that is all they do receive. The helicopter is given on a free lease to the ambulance service by Virgin with all the separate London health authorities picking up the bill for the running costs between them.

After the brief appearance they have made in the normally quiet cloisters of University College we can only hope they continue to have more luck in remaining in the air than Mr. Branson’s other, more publicised attempts to get off the ground.

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Low Pay group slams plans to deny minimum wage to under-25s

Nicole Stoesser

THE LOW PAY Commission (LPC) are outlining a possible exemption of those under the age of 25 from the National Minimum Wage. Many students currently rely on part-time jobs as well as maintenance grants and student loans to meet their living costs during their period of study and would doubtless be affected if the proposal was accepted.

The National Minimum Wage is intended to deal with the problem of low pay, but excluding the under 25 age group automatically involves disregarding the sector of the population which makes up a quarter of the total 4.7 million people who are currently paid less than four pounds an hour.

A report conducted by the Labour Research Department at the behest of Britain’s General Union (GMB) concluded that in many cases students were paid badly, failed to get time off work and were intimidated and taken advantage of by their employers.

The general consensus amongst students questioned on the issue was that if the government failed to realise that students were entitled to the minimum wage, then this would further already widespread student exploitation in the work place. However, some did point out that if employers are forced to pay students a higher set wage then they may well look to take on a full-time more permanent work-force.

The Confederation of British Industry which represents large corporations believes that without certain exemptions an undue burden would be placed on companies, which would possibly lead to redundancies. The Institute of Directors, which speaks on behalf of smaller firms, is firmly opposed to any minimum wage.

The findings of the LPC will be published in May 1998. The government will draw up legislation after considering the submissions of the LPC and other agencies. However, the Cabinet is allegedly divided on the issue, with some ministers supporting exemptions and others who believe a minimum wage should be universal.

It is clear that with cuts in grants and the introduction of “top-up” fees at universities many students will face increasing financial hardship and the minimum wage exemptions will be seen as a barrier to higher education, especially for poorer students. However, a spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry claimed today that the effects exemptions might have on students are one of the major considerations in discussion. “The government does not want the proposal for a restricted minimum wage to be a disincentive for enrolling in higher education.”

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Czech student sexually assaulted and left for dead on a central London train

Hywel Lewis

A CZECH student, in the UK to improve her English, was brutally sexually assaulted on a train on Sunday the 25th of January. She was found unconscious in the toilet of a train travelling from Hastings to Charing Cross.

She was discovered at Orpington station, Kent, after delays prevented the cubicles being inspected earlier. Firemen had to be called to remove the door, which had been wedged shut by the teenager’s body. She is said to have incurred serious facial injuries, resulting in heavy loss of blood, and her condition is described as critical. She has regained consciousness occasionally, but was not yet well enough to speak about the attack.

Connex, the train operators, have offered a £5000 reward for the capture of the attacker, as a measure of the seriousness of the offense. “We are treating the attack as attempted murder”, Detective Superintendent Graham Satchwell of the British Transport Police told London Student. “It is our belief that the attacker left the victim for dead, and we appeal urgently for public assistance”.

The victim was white, slim, around 5ft 8in tall, wore glasses, and was wearing brown boots, a red coat and dark trousers, and was carrying a Superdrug shopping bag. She also had a very pronounced Eastern European accent. The British Transport Police have appealed to those who were on the train, which arrived at Charing Cross at 2.57pm, to contact them on 0171 387 0354. A number of people have come forward with information, but police are still anxious to hear accounts of those passengers who have yet to contact them.

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Oxford plans to reform tutorials following North Report and funding cuts

John House

OXFORD UNION has welcomed recommendations put forward by a commission of enquiry but rejects plans for changing exam procedures. The commission of enquiry, chaired by Jesus College principal, Sir Peter North, was set up to investigate ways of maintaining Oxford’s position as a world class university.

The three year enquiry is the first review of Oxford’s long term development in thirty years. The commission’s recommendations have far-reaching ramifications for university policy-making and administration. If recommendations are implemented institutions within the university that have remained largely unchanged for centuries will be modernised.

Teaching and research were endorsed by the North Report and will remain largely unaffected by the commission’s proposals. Sir Peter said: “We have strongly backed the retention of a collegiate university structure, with undergraduate teaching underpinned by the tutorial system.”

The commission also encourages measures for broadening student access to Oxford. It recommends that a Standing Committee on Access be set up to explore wider access initiatives and monitor the fairness of admissions procedures.

The North Report rejects arguments that Oxford would benefit if it stopped relying on government funding. The report stipulates that the university should remain within the publicly funded system of higher education.

Oxford Union president, Simon McDougall, said that overall, the report was supported by students but plans to change finals were unpopular. The commission recommends that examinations should be split between penultimate and final years. But a student poll taken last year overwhelmingly indicated that students would prefer to take finals in the last year of their courses.

Currently Oxford is reviewing the College Fee that subsidises one-to-one tutorials. Oxford Union would rather see the College Fee remain as they fear it will be replaced with top-up fees. Significantly UL universities such as King’s and UCL provide small group tutorials in a number of their departments at no extra charge.

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UCL students fooled by a bogus Computer Virus

Nicki Bennett

UCL students found themselves amidst a computer hoax that caused confusion at the ISD helpdesk and terminals alike over the past week.

Posters in the history department warning students of a highly dangerous new virus which would erase all information on their hard-drives caused some concerns amongst students. The posters referred to instructions supposedly issued by IBM and AOL on how to handle the matter. Later in the week, e-mails proclaiming the same message were received by students and staff. The directions on both the posters and the e-mails asked students to immediately delete various files on their computers, a move which sparked a chain reaction of defaults, including inabilities to log in or out.

UCL helpdesk later tried to rectify the mistakes by sending out new e-mails with solutions to the flood of problems the hoax caused with users throughout college.

The helpdesk were not yet available to comment on any search for the culprits.

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UCLH students protest on Dobson’s doorstep

Dagogo Wilcox

NURSING STUDENTS at the University College London Hospitals group (UCLH) staged a “sleep out” at the home of Health Secretary Frank Dobson on Monday January 26th. This was in protest against the Labour Government’s plans to sell off their student accommodation which is subsidised by the NHS to private sector landlords.

The nurses fear that the sale will drive their rents up and put them in serious danger of homelessness.

At the very least, they will be forced to seek accommodation outside central London, but given the type of work they do, this will be a highly impractical alternative.

According to Jacqui Buckley, a student nurse living at the Rockefeller nurses home in Huntley Street, WC1: “Student nurses live on a bursary of £5000 a year. We need cheap accommodation near to the hospitals we are training in, since we have to work shifts and cannot afford private rents in central London.”

The government’s plan to “offload” UCLH accommodation comes under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), which entails the involvement of private concerns in the funding of higher education.

Implementation of the PFI will see three current hospitals merging to form a new single new one.

The proposed merger has aroused fierce criticism from staff and the UCLH UNISON (the public service union) representatives. This is because if it goes ahead, staff residences will be cut from 1400 to 800 and 1000 jobs will be privatised.

The plan will also mean bad news for patients as it will lead to 100 beds being cut.

At a time when the capital is in serious need of good nurses, better facilities and more beds, the government’s thinking is hard to understand. Morale in the nursing profession, which is already low, is likely to decrease even further.James Reade, a UCH staff nurse said, “Staff turnover and low morale are at crisis point on the wards. If privately run residences mean higher rents, then recruiting trained staff will be even harder.”

The government however seems intent on pursuing the PFI scheme and it is ironic that it is Frank Dobson, the man who when in opposition was a vociferous critic of NHS privatisation, who is in charge of implementing the plans.And where was Mr. Dobson as the students camped outside his home in sleeping bags and cardboard boxes? He had entered the house through a back door, and refused to answer his doorbell when it was rung by the protesters.

This did not however put off the determined UCLH nurses.

Udwin said: “Frank Dobson has backed us in the past when we fought against ward closures and privatisation. If he won’t speak to us today, we will be taking the fight to Whitehall.”

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Dobson grants reprieve to Bart's after six-year campaign

Chi Eziefula

AFTER SIX years of campaigning, 874 year old St. Bart’s Hospital will survive threats of closure, albeit in a modified form.

The much loved teaching hospital was scheduled to close in 2001, but will now live on as a clinical and research centre where special units will include a cardio-thoracic and cancer unit. It will not recover its Casualty department, which closed in January 1995 under the Tory government.

The news follows the announcement by the Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, to the Commons last Tuesday that he fully accepts the recommendations of the London Strategic Review, chaired by Professor Sir Leslie Turnberg, which outlines a ten year strategy to improve London’s health service.

The plan involves an extra spending of £1 billion over the next four years and a shift of £140 million to family and mental health services. There will be a thrust towards a single Regional Office for London to take over from the present 16 individual Health Authorities.

Professor Mike Besser, Professor of Medicine at St. Bart’s, told London Student: “I am delighted that the issue of London’s Health has been revised in a more objective way and that what we always maintained was correct, proving the previous financial assessment to be incorrect. “We are looking forward to the next 800 years!”

Bart’s beds were to be transferred to create a 1200-bed hospital on the Royal London site in Whitechapel, a recommendation of the now contradicted Tomlinson report. The Royal Hospitals Trust still maintains that this one-site service would save around £26m a year.

Two other hospitals now have bleaker futures: services at the Queen Mary Hospital in Surrey and Queen Charlotte Hospital in West London will be taken over by Kingston and Hammersmith Hospitals, respectively.

The recent controversy surrounding the location of London’s Accident and Emergency services now places Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Casualty on the St. Thomas’s site.

Meanwhile, a brand new £160m hospital is to replace the Middlesex Hospital, UCH, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. The proposed 640-bed UCL Hospital will rise from five to fifteen floors on the Euston Road. The unified service will save £15 million a year.

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Government cracks down on Rohypnol laws

Anne Goodliffe

THE DEPARTMENT of Health and the Home Office are to tighten the laws restricting the ‘date-rape’ drug, Rohypnol. It will be re-categorised from Schedule 4 to Schedule 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. There have been many claims by women who believe that they have been victims of Rohypnol. However, the police have had difficulty seizing it and as yet there have been few cases brought to court. This is because the drug is quickly broken down and has often disappeared from the body by the time a complaint is made.

Rohypnol has already been banned in the United States, where it had been becoming increasingly popular amongst youths. It is often taken in conjunction with alcohol and creates a rapid ‘high’ feeling which lasts for up to two hours. However, Rohypnol is currently available on private prescription throughout the UK. It has been claimed that rapists slip Rohypnol into their victims drinks which then acts as a sedative and causes the victim to suffer temporary amnesia. The recent decision has been prompted through the heightened reports of usage of Rohypnol in rape cases.

Rohypnol’s manufacturer, Roche, is planning to put a blue dye into the drug, which will mean that potential victims will be able to spot a spiked drink.

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UCL most popular choice for foreign students

Jasper Credland

UCL RECEIVES the largest number of applications from overseas students, with 3,637 applications for the last academic year, according to a table published in January.

UCL heads a top ten list which includes three other London University colleges. Second most popular is LSE, with King’s College coming a close fourth. Imperial College is the tenth most popular university, measured by numbers of applications from outside the UK.

The other universities featuring in the top ten are all red-brick city institutions, being, in descending order: Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Bristol and Warwick.

Overseas Students'
Top 10

University Applications
1 UCL 3,637
2 LSE 3,269
3 Manchester 3,191
4 KCL 3,172
5 Birmingham 3,019
6 Nottingham 2,754
7 Sheffield 2,708
8 Bristol 2,632
9 Warwick 2,616
10 Imperial 2,573
So, what exactly is it that draws so many to our fair capital, and are the students who come here happy with the choice they have made? The responses from those students spoken to around Bloomsbury were remarkable in their similarities. Most gave the international reputation of UCL as having been a major factor in their decision to apply there.

Several of those interviewed said that they had applied to a number of different London colleges, choosing the one that gave them the best offer. Geraldine van den Brande, a postgraduate History student from Antwerp, said that she had initially applied to UCL, LSE and King’s College. She chose UCL because it was “the most friendly”. She had sent an e-mail to a Belgian friend that very morning encouraging them to apply to UCL as well.

The other obvious draw was London itself. Surprisingly perhaps to many long-term residents, students found London a welcoming, easy-to-live-in, well-organised city. A Brazilian male student who wished to remain anonymous, was the only one to make any clearly negative statement, “The night life doesn’t exist, and as for the girls, well...!”. His identity and whereabouts are available to any callers to London Student who would like to help him experience “Cool Britannia”.

Euripides, a Greek I.T. student studying an MSc., said that UCL had been the only college in London to accept him. London was attractive because he wanted “a nice life”, “social”. Despite all the night-spots closing too early he has apparently been successfully locating a little of that life.

Mark Pickerill of UCL’s International office was not surprised by the college’s popularity. He was quick to point out that UCL was accepting overseas students as early as 1863. Students from over one hundred and thirty different countries are currently enrolled at UCL. The largest groups are from the U.S. and the Far East. He stressed that entry standards were remaining high despite the competition among universities for the sizeable income brought by foreign students’ fees.

He added that there was no active promotion of the university abroad, but that its name and reputation were enough to keep the applications from overseas coming in.

Christina, Civil Engineering, from Athens: There is lots to do in London, but not without money Jorge, Civil Engineering, UCL, from Toledo, Spain: “The course is tough, but living in London is a nice experience” Fumi, Art History, UCL, from Tokyo: “The British Council in Japan recommended SOAS, where I took my foundation course”
Photos: Adam Ohringer

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Britons drink less than their fellow Europeans (UCL excluded...)

Hywel Lewis

FAR FROM being the over-indulging nation it claims to be, Britain has been overtaken in its alcohol consumption by most of Europe. Countries such as sedate Switzerland, laid-back Italy, and the frankly horizontal Luxembourg, which tops the charts with a staggering 11.8 litres of pure alcohol per person per year, now monopolise the World Drink Trends league table.

Britain, at number 19, closely followed by the legendary beer-swilling Australians, can only muster a paltry 7.6 litres of alcohol per person in response to Luxembourg’s awe-inspiring 11.8, Portugal’s 11.2, France’s 11.1. The Czech Republic is again the leader in the beer-drinking stakes, with 160 litres of beer per person being consumed annually, with the Irish a poor second. Here, Britain comes in seventh. The study, published for the drinks trade, established that the average Briton drinks approximately 102.3 litres of beer, 17 bottles of wine and four litres of spirits per year.

The reason for the UK’s poor showing, according to Andrew Pashley, the editor of the study, is that British people drink more beer than wine or spirits. Beer, with its relatively low alcohol content, would seem to be responsible for Britain’s comparatively low placing. “The UK is still, however, in the top 20, so its reputation for hard drinking is not irreparably damaged”, Andrew Pashley told London Student.

Oxford University has proof that Britons drink less: the Council’s Environmental Health Officer reported that, compared to last years’ 15-20 complaints, there were only six this year, and that no legal action has been taken for at least four years. Merton College, though, is particularly proud to have received all of two visits by Environmental Health Officers on the night of its Christmas ball, but is quick to deny any problems. On the other hand, students in London can rest assured that ULU members are doing their best to redress the imbalance. The UCL Christmas ball was reported to have broken the record for the most alcohol consumed per person in the UK.

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Run the London Marathon and raise money for the Asthma Campaign

Nicki Bennett

THE NATIONAL Asthma Campaign (NAC) is calling for runners from all over the UK to join their team in the annual FLORA London Marathon, which will be held on April 26th. Runners are asked to collect sponsorship for their efforts, and the NAC is aiming to raise £350,00 this year.

“By joining the National Asthma Campaign’s Running Team, you’ll be part of one of the biggest teams on raceday. The running vests you receive have room for your name and with this personal touch, we’ll be all along the route, cheering you until the finish line,” the Head of the NAC team, Emma Sambrook, said.

The National Asthma campaign has an annual turnover of about £5.1 million, £2.4 million of which is spent on asthma research for the 3.4 million Britons who are affected by the condition.

“I think it’s a worthy cause-I’ll be running this year. My sister has asthma, so I know that the NAC is one of the leading funders of independent asthma research and that they work together with the NHS to make many immediate improvements to asthma care” , James, a second-year at Queen Mary and Westfield College told London Student.

The NAC will also host a post-race reception offering food, drinks and massages to their team members. To join the NAC team and receive a sponsorship form, please contact Emma Sambrook on 0171 226 2260 ext 355.

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Rag week revelling all over London but UCL goes the ‘Full Monty’


Photo: Adam Ohringer

Katy O’Bryan

UCL’s Rag Week began on Monday 25th January with the legendary ‘Endurance’ competition. Previous years have seen vomiting of ridiculous proportions, during the hour long eating and drinking binge performed live on stage.

This year however, despite stomach churning concoctions, such as lard and chilli hors d’oeuvres, the competition fell flat after only a few rounds, with five of the six competitors sadly leaving the stage.

Four times champion of the highly pretigious competition Henri Sant-Cassia was left victorious once more and commented that the poor standard of the competition was “understandable, but seemed against the spirit of the event. I only hope for a more raucous first year intake next year!”

That said, the rest of the week’s events were excellent, from the gruelling pub sprint right through to UCL’s triumph during the annual 100 man boat race against King’s College.

“We absolutely thrashed them”, boasted organiser Rob, but King’s certainly displayed fine sportsmanship in showing up to UC’s Gordon Square to participate in the first place.

Shouting, boozing and abusing the ‘Strand Poly’ were the order of the week, with fund raising coming in at a creditable fourth place.

Amongst the more sociable events, top marks to the Rag Monty, where UCL’s finest, and Ben Hughes, performed a series of raunchy strips for cash but unfortunately not quite to the ‘Full Monty’. The strippers were then auctioned off as slaves in front of a screaming flock of drooling females.

Drag for Rag saw a packed UCL Union reminiscent of the Cocktails of old, with a multitude of scantily clad schoolgirls and hairy drag queens all getting into the swing of things by drinking themselves stupid on vast amounts of Sex on the Beach.

Levels of participation were well up on last year’s figures and a good time was had by all. The organiser sent out a massive ‘thank you’ to all those who made it the highly successful Rag Week it was.

All proceeds will be going to the charities London Lighthouse, Shelter, The Soup Kitchen and Centrepoint.

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Baroness Thatcher Foundation funds £2m Cambridge University "Professorship of Enterprise"

Sonya Mayet

THE MARGARET Thatcher Foundation is giving £2 million to fund a proposed Professorship of Enterprise at Cambridge University. Details published by the University announced that the professorship “will concentrate on the teaching and research of Enterprise Studies, a discipline that forms an essential part of many European and American business school programmes.”

The Judge Institute of Management Studies, the University’s business school, are delighted with the offer: “Thanks to The Thatcher Foundation, we will be able to establish Cambridge as a leading centre in this area and ensure that our students have a very well-founded international perspective on the dynamics of successful enterprise” said Professor Sandra Dawson, the Institute’s Director.

The Margaret Thatcher Professor of Enterprise will be appointed by an independent Board of Electors, and is aiming to be established from October 1998.

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation was established in the UK and the US in 1991 after Mrs. Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister. Among the objectives of the foundation is the commitment to promoting an understanding of the environment needed for entrepreneurial success.

Baroness Thatcher studied at Oxford University for her degree in chemistry, prompting rumours that this is a deliberate snub. The University voted down plans to award her an honorary degree in 1986.

Cynics might assume that a Margaret Thatcher Chair of Enterprise might not prove popular with all students, given that the Thatcher era is seen in some circles to be anachronistic. But Professor Dawson states that: “Enterprise studies is a key area for management learning and research. It is a subject which is now seen to be crucial to the development of many new markets, including those of China and the former Soviet Union, as well as our own.” With Tony Blair citing her as a key influence in his politics, this professorship enables the Thatcher legacy to live on.

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British Bureaucracy really goes to work

Brooke Anderson

THE GOVERNMENT faces new problems caused by the introduction of tuition fees. It emerged this week that an entirely new branch of administration will have to be set up in order to regulate the fees issue for non-UK students.

Approximately 12,000 students from other EU countries enter UK universities every year. The British government is legally bound to treat the students of other EU countries as they do their own nationals. Tuition fees, expected next autumn, will range up to £1, 000, with one third of students being exempt completely. EU students who fall in between the minimum parental income of £23, 000 and the maximum of £35, 000 will present the councils with significant assessment difficulties.

The introduction of tuition fees will make it a difficult year for central government, the local education authorities and UK universities. A spokesman for the London LEA explained: “Decisions need to be made quickly or the system will break down. If the project is delayed any longer, difficulties will increase for universities because they will have less time to do the work that is needed in order to ensure a smooth transition.”

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