Tuesday, June 16, 2009

British students pushed out of universities by EU applicants

British sixth formers could be "crowded out" of university places because of an increase in applications from candidates from the rest of Europe, according to vice-chancellors. An unprecedented surge in applications by young people to start higher education in the UK in September has seen the number of British candidates rise by 8.8 per cent from last year. Applications from the rest of the European Union are rising even more quickly, up by 16.4 per cent.

Yet even though 43,367 more Britons and 3,576 more Europeans are chasing places, the Government has set a controversial 10,000 cap on the number of additional places available across the sector. A combination of the cap, the rise in EU applicants and a rule that prevents universities from discriminating in favour of homegrown talent means that British sixth formers risk losing places to well-qualified rivals from abroad. Students from the EU are funded by the Government in the same way as British students, and count in an identical way towards universities' student quotas.

"We have never seen anything like the upsurge in applications," said Malcolm Grant, the provost of University College London. "It is across all sectors, postgraduate, international and even our conventional UK and EU undergraduate applications. "EU students have to be treated the same. There is a crowding out possibility – if you take an EU student it is a place that is not available to a UK student.

"We get superb overseas students, especially from France and Germany, and we must treat them on the same basis and offer them places on the same basis. "They turn up here and they are dead keen to have come to London on their own initiative. They have studied English in a formal way and are pretty impressive."

The number of EU students studying in the UK is already on the rise. Between 2006/07 and 2007/08 there was a six per cent increase to 112,150, while enrolments of Britons actually fell by one per cent. Over the same period, the number of non-EU overseas students increased by four per cent.

The squeeze on places this year will mean even greater competition for courses. It is estimated that as many as 80,000 applicants could fail to find a place. Les Ebdon, the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University, who has condemned ministers for restricting higher education at a time of recession, warned that if British students are turned away, while EU students win places, it could lead to a backlash that mirrors the "British jobs for British workers" row. "Institutions are not allowed to discriminate against any student in the EU," said Professor Ebdon, chairman of the Million+ group of newer universities. "And for EU students, the UK is an increasingly popular destination. "But in a situation when you have increased applications, a cap on places and few places through clearing it will be difficult for the public to understand why a Polish student can get a place but their own kids can't."

EU nationals face the same £3,145-a-year tuition fees as their UK counterparts and are entitled to the same grants and subsidised loans, to cover the cost of fees and living expenses. Non-EU overseas students are charged full tuition costs by universities, which average £10,000 a year for arts students, and they do not count against Government student quotas.

Since 2006, EU citizens studying in Britain have been eligible to take out low interest loans to pay for tuition fees, in the same way as British students. They are supposed to pay back what they owe when they graduate. But figures published earlier this year revealed that among the 2,240 EU students who have so far become eligible to start paying back such loans, some 1,580 were not doing so, leaving taxpayers with a £3.8 million bill.

David Lammy, the universities minister, claims that the figure is misleading because a proportion of the 1,580 students will have changed courses and not yet graduated, or are earning below the salary at which loans have to be repaid - £15,000 in the UK, or an equivalent level in their homeland. Students from the EU currently studying currently studying at British universities have borrowed, between them, a further £124 million to cover tuition fees and living costs. It is feared that many who return to their home countries will never repay the money because there is no repayment mechanism outside of the UK. The Student Loan Company has to rely on students informing them of their earnings and making their own arrangements, although it said measures to track EU students will be in place by April next year.


‘Thousands of Britons dying as doctors miss signs of kidney failure’

Thousands of patients are dying unnecessarily because hospital doctors are missing the signs of kidney failure, a national inquiry reports today. Half of people who die from acute kidney injury (AKI) do not receive a good standard of care because of lapses in “basic bedside medicine”, the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) says.

AKI, also known as acute renal failure, is estimated to affect up to 5 per cent of all hospital patients, but there are “systematic failings” in identifying and treating patients with the condition. Estimates suggest that at least 2,000 patients die every year from AKI, brought on by dehydration and the side-effects of medication.

The NCEPOD report on 564 patients who died in hospital found that in 43 per cent of cases, there was an unacceptable delay in diagnosing their condition, while in 13 per cent of cases, fatal complications were missed. Complications were also “avoidable” in 17 per cent of cases and “managed badly” in 22 per cent of cases.

The report found failings in basic bedside medicine — the way doctors cared for patients, rather than in the way hospitals organised the care. This included doctors failing to carry out basic tests to check for kidney failure — the study found 33 per cent of patients had had inadequate investigations.

The inquiry focused on the case notes of patients who died from AKI in 215 hospitals between January and March 2007. The hospitals were in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

James Stewart, a joint author of the report and NCEPOD’s clinical co-ordinator, said that the findings indicated a lack of awareness among doctors of the risks of renal failure, a poor understanding of how the condition progressed and inadequate knowledge of how to manage it. “AKI is a common and essentially treatable condition, but a lack of basic bedside medicine is leading to the deaths of at least 2,000 patients a year in this country. The very essentials of medical care were being omitted and, unless attention is paid to the basics, patients will continue to die unnecessarily.”

AKI is distinct from chronic kidney disease, which requires regular treatment with dialysis. It can be identified through a blood test, but the inquiry found that the condition was often recognised late when complications were already evident. “In the past, specialist clinical care has rightly focused on chronic kidney disease, but this has left acute kidney injury to be managed by non-specialists,” Dr Stewart added. “Leaving complex and potentially reversible problems to junior staff is always unacceptable.

The NCEPOD report, Adding Insult to Injury, recommends that all patients admitted to hospital as an emergency should have a blood test to check electrolyte levels, which indicates how well the kidneys are functioning.

Dr Stewart said that the condition was more likely to affect elderly patients but could also result from a lack of fluids, or as a side-effect of common drugs including aspirin, blood pressure medication and antibiotics. He pointed to the failure of undergraduate and graduate medical training as a key factor in the inadequate care of AKI patients: “Education is paramount, but medical student training does not provide junior doctors with the ability to recognise acute illness.”

The inquiry recommended that medical training should promote greater awareness of the condition. All patients in hospital should also be reviewed by a senior consultant within 12 hours of admission, it added. Ann Keen, the Health Minister, said: “We are grateful to NCEPOD for bringing this to our attention. “Predictable and avoidable acute kidney injury should never occur.”


A new desideratum for the modern age

Comment from Britain

In case you missed it, one of Martin Amis’s girlfriends from the 1970s has published an article about his womanising ways and the girls he loved and left. It has caused a minor storm because Amis is arguably our most famous living author — and certainly the most glamorous — and because Marty gave his approval for this kiss-and-tell.

There are plenty of people who would go to court not to have details of their private lives revealed in print. But Amis not only doesn’t care, he positively welcomed the exposure. This got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great to be so confident of your sexual history — so sure that your lovers numbered the smartest, most attractive people of your generation — that naming them could only make you look better? How rare must that be? Thanks to Amis, we now have a new definition of success: having a sexual history that you can afford to boast about, with no exceptions.

The importance of racking up a sexual history that you can be proud of is not something they teach you in school, but it has to be more useful in the long term than metalwork. Look around and the world is roughly divided into people whose SH has held them back and people who don’t need to lie in bed at night wondering if anyone is going to find out about the heroin dealer/sex pest/con artist/embarrassing loser they lived with for six months after college.

The truth is, nothing damages a girl’s respect factor faster than a dalliance with Calum Best (oh Lindsay, how could you?). And if you’re a bloke, it’s probably better to have had a three-month stint inside for pension fraud than a fling with the former Mrs Paul McCartney. Take Sienna Miller — lovely girl, but her SH is so dodgy, it has affected her karma and left her looking like a romantic liability. And George Clooney is a super guy but for one niggling detail: the line-up of strikingly unremarkable exes.

To score high in the sexual-history stakes, you don’t have to be the opposite of promiscuous, or even faithful — you merely need to demonstrate that you have good taste and the power to pull people worth pulling (it’s a bonus if, like Marty, you leave all your lovers “numb and shattered”, but at the very least, the experience needs to have been memorable). And a quality sexual history works for both parties. We don’t like to admit it, but how you rate the women in your man’s past (and who dumped who) directly affects your perception of them. If you admire the girls who came before you, then it’s okay to be tainted by association. But if your boyfriend’s exes are a pretty sad bunch who tend to be the ones to leave, and you definitely wouldn’t want to borrow their clothes, it can’t help but make you question if he’s worth it.

Maybe that’s the point in the end. I don’t particularly want to be able to say I’ve slept with Mick Jagger, but I wouldn’t mind being lumped in a category with the young Marianne Faithfull, Marsha Hunt, Sophie Dahl, Carla Bruni... Best stop there on account of the lawyers.


There is ONE crime that the British police will respond promptly to

Any attack on one of their own. It shows what could be done (but rarely if ever is) when other people are under attack. Many complaints to British police result in no action at all

There are often complaints about the length of time it takes for the police to respond to an emergency call. In the interest of balance and fairness, I must point out that such a miserable experience is by no means a universal one.

A cacophony of angry, shouting male voices, accompanied by the loud barking of dogs the other day, quite naturally drew me to the window, outside of which there was indeed a serious-looking altercation, half-obscured down an alley.

I'd barely taken a step towards the phone when a car carrying four armed police skidded to a halt, and the occupants waded into the fray. Impressive.

But it didn't stop there. Another armed response unit soon arrived on the scene, followed by three regular squad cars and five police vans, one little, four big. There were so many police it was impossible to count them all, and they were soon marching the small group of miscreants into some of the dizzying choice of available vehicles.

The alley in which the captured youths had congregated is notorious for its open drug dealing and its crude dogfights. Residents were amazed that such routine activity, long-since recognised as nothing we should trouble the police too much about, had finally attracted the undivided attention of the law.

Later, it emerged that two police on the beat had, unusually, challenged the assembled group, and that more than one had been moronic enough to take a swing at them. It's good to know that there are some crimes serious enough to be addressed with efficiency, passion and unlimited manpower. Sort of.


British immigration backflip

Foreign doctors told: You can stay in Britain after all

Foreign doctors treating patients in British hospitals will be allowed to stay in this country after an embarrassing U-turn by the Government - triggered by The Mail on Sunday. Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced a change to immigration laws in February that would have forced about 200 non-EU medics to leave the UK. The doctors, who trained here for five years and now work in hospitals as part of a two-year foundation programme, would have had to leave after their visas expired because they would no longer have been classed as 'highly skilled' workers.

Critics claimed the move was a waste of taxpayers' money and could have threatened patient safety when there are shortages of doctors in areas such as cardiology and neurology.

The Mail on Sunday revealed the potential impact of the policy to the Home Office last week. On Friday, officials performed a stunning volte-face and announced that non-EU medics in their second foundation year would be allowed to apply to continue working in Britain. But 100 doctors in the first year of the foundation course will still have to leave.

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said: 'This U-turn is yet another example of chaos and confusion at the Home Office. Ministers have no consistent strategy and make up policy on the hoof. 'It is astonishing that they have to rely on The Mail on Sunday to point out errors in their own laws.'



The German-language version of the pro-business Financial Times urged its readers on Thursday to vote for the Green party in the forthcoming European elections.

"Whoever wants to bring meaningful change with his vote should this time tick the Green box. They are the only party putting forward real ideas for Europe," the paper said in an editorial on its famous pink pages.


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