Newspaper headlines: Future of universities, 'underground schools' and fireworks ban call

"Raise standards or cut fees" is how the Times sums up proposals in the government's White Paper on the future of higher education in England.

Top-rated universities will be allowed to introduce larger fee increases, while students who suffer poor teaching will see reduced charges. And the introduction of a ranking for institutions aims to address criticism of varying standards.

In a leading article, the Times says a "legacy of centuries of academic of excellence... masks serious weaknesses in the quality of undergraduate teaching".

The biggest test for Universities Minister Jo Johnson's reforms, says the Financial Times, is whether they can change employers' perceptions about what constitutes a "good" university.

"Some vice-chancellors will fret that a greater focus on teaching could undermine their place in the world rankings, which are mainly tied to research output," the FT adds. "But there is much to be said for Mr Johnson's ambition."

For the Guardian, the announcement "does little to tackle the real barriers to social mobility.

"It offers nothing new to part-time or older students; and, while it continues to trumpet the benefits to the economy of expanding higher education, it goes on loading the cost on to the individual."

The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail's coverage of the White Paper focuses on the introduction of Sharia loans in a drive to encourage more Muslim students to apply to university.


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In news about the EU referendum...

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What the commentators say...

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Media captionCaroline Frost, entertainment editor at Huffington Post, and the parliamentary journalist Tony Grew join the BBC News Channel to review Tuesday's front pages

'Sub-standard' schools

Another education story attracting headlines is an Ofsted report which discovered thousands of children are being taught in unregistered schools across England.

Describing the findings as a "secret schools scandal", the i says chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw's concerns included "unsafe" premises and a "significant risk of harm and indoctrination".

The Daily Telegraph is concerned by the tone of the report, amid government warnings about the threat of Islamist extremism and new laws to tackle "hate preachers" from operating in schools.

"Sir Michael does not explain exactly which harmful ideas could be foisted on those children," it says.

"If even senior officials responsible for overseeing the education system and identifying its problems are unwilling to say openly that the evidence suggests that some British Muslims are rejecting British values, how can the country ever attempt to address that problem?"

The Daily Mail notes inspectors were "deeply alarmed" by the "sub-standard education" uncovered in 100 underground schools - half of which were faith-based, including a third Islamic, and a sixth either Christian or Jewish.


Khan v Johnson

The Daily Telegraph has been running a series of stories as part of a campaign for tighter security at borders. And its splash says a European Commission report is warning proposals to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens within continental Europe area could be exploited by terrorists and criminals.

Attacks on European countries are more likely as a result of the controversial deal, which relies on Ankara passing key anti-corruption and terrorism reforms, the Telegraph says.

The Guardian says London Mayor Sadiq Khan is to publish an air quality report from 2010 which found 433 schools in the capital were in locations that exceed EU limits for nitrogen dioxide pollution - with four-fifths of them in deprived areas.

Mr Khan, says the Guardian, is questioning why the report had not been released earlier. But his predecessor at City Hall, Boris Johnson, later issued a statement saying the findings had not been hidden and were used to improve air quality in the capital during his term.

Meanwhile, campaigners against fixed odds betting terminals tell the Daily Mirror they fear the chancellor is resisting demands to clamp down on the machines they dub the "most addictive gambling product in the UK" because of the nearly £13m they bring in tax revenue every week.

A government spokesman is quoted as saying that "tax revenue does not dictate gambling regulation" and ministers are continue to monitor the effectiveness of existing controls.


Frightened pooches

Finally, the Times carries news of a growing RSPCA petition to ban private firework displays on all but four days of the year.

The charity says thousands of dogs are distressed by fireworks every year and it wants their use restricted to events of special religious or cultural significance - Bonfire Night, New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali.

Image copyright Reuters

MPs are due to debate the petition hosted on the government website next month after it reached 100,000 signatures. The RSPCA is also calling for the maximum permitted noise level of fireworks for public sale to be reduced, says the paper.

"Fireworks are undeniably thrilling," says the Times in a leading article. "They are also frightening... This is case for regulation and not only voluntary restraint."


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