Protests at IC (19 Oct 2002)

Imperial has announced a couple of things that have annoyed a few people. Firstly, charging students extra "top-up" fee of upto £15,000 a year and merging with University College The first provoked a student protest [1][2](with good turnout despite it being cold and rainy) and the latter a threat from the lectures to strike.

I think some background is needed here. For a long time, going to university was `free' (not including living and eating etc) because it was paid for by the government. That system was setup when 5% of the school leaving population were expected to attend a university. At the moment that number is more like 50% and a few years ago the (Labour) government started charging £1,100 per year in fees. Nearly all students are deeply in debt by the time they leave uni. Now, it costs the college something like £10,500 per year per student and they get £7,500 per year per student from the government. No wonder that something needs to be done

Now, if you live in the US you are thinking "£15,000 is nothing, look what I pay!", but the UK has never worked like that - we have a much higher level of taxation for one and the protest is largely about the lack of consultation with the Union. I think this text is interesting, as are some of the comments here.

On a selfish note, it's unlikely that I would have to pay these fees as I'll be gone before they come in. Actually, I'll be forced to go before they start charging this.

And onto the second issue, merging with UCL (University College, London). London Uni is (I think) unique in this country that the colleges are more-or-less unis in themselves. At Oxford and Cambridge (who have the best known colleges) a subject is taught by the department and all students of x at the university goto the same department. However, Uni/London colleges have their own departments.

Now, UCL is in deep fiscal trouble and if ICL and UCL merged they would likely split from the university and setup on their own. This could create a terrible mess as they would have to cut some duplicate departments (thus reducing costs etc, which is the point). Now I think that wherever UCL and ICL both have a department of x, ICL's is going to be better. But for political reasons they can't just choose on academic grounds because then UCL gets badly cut, so some ICL departments might get shutdown. Also, ICL students are a little worried about the culture clash. UCL has 18,000 students and ICL less than 10,000 so, in a democratic Union, UCL holds sway.


I went to Cambridge yesterday to meet up with a couple of friends and have a look at some of the colleges in daylight. In short: both Dowling and Trinity are beautiful. Now, Beit Hall at IC is reasonable, but most of IC is pretty ugly. Cambridge is a work of art.

Unfortunately, I couldn't talk to TBL because I had to get back. I guess I'll have to accept his argument on random walks in n-d space until I can understand it. I would liked to have asked how his provable code project is going though.

I also saw this book on quantum computing in the Waterstones there. Maybe a little dense, but might be good. Also there was this book which is the first book I've seen to cover iproute2.


One of the best things about being at Uni is that you get access to a good library. I can easily waste hours in IC Central Library. It has the whole of Computers and Typesetting (Knuth) which has re-awakened my desire to rework TeX (this is pretty nuts, but one of my saner ideas). It also has AMOP, which is otherwise impossible to get in this country (expect getting it one off shipped).

Oh, and looking at the catalog it has the Quantum Computing book I mentioned above. My reading list has never been so long, or so cheap!

Hilary Rosen in Oxford

From NTK:

NTK's two spiritual forefathers face off at last, when CHUCK "PUBLIC ENEMY" D and BRUCE "IRON MAIDEN" DICKINSON take opposing sides at next week's "This House Believes That Music Is Not For Sharing" debate at the Oxford Union (8.30pm, Thu 2002-10-24, Cornmarket St, Oxford, complex admission procedure which we'll go into later). The event also marks a rare UK public appearance by HILARY ROSEN of arch anti-P2P villains THE RECORDING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, and thus a handy leafleting opportunity for the copy-protection-opposing CAMPAIGN FOR DIGITAL RIGHTS - plus a chance to get our new "Corrupt Disc - Inferior Audio" t-shirt at not-available-in- the-shops knock-down prices. Basically, mail (with the subject line "Fight The Power") for meet-up details - the Oxford Union is actually a members-only debating society rather than a proper Union like ULU, but does have a mildly complicated guest-admission procedure. Or failing that, we'll just go to the pub and swap mp3 remixes of "Bring The Noise". - "I'm Running Free", eh Bruce? Not under Palladium you're not - actual "CD" logo font looks more like Eurostile Heavy to us - taking "talk like a pirate" day too far - file under "Yo, bum rush the show"

I'm hoping to make it there, but it's a bit short notice.