Newspaper headlines: Student crisis, EU 'compromise', Rhodes statue and Barbie doll

Education standards among young people, David Cameron's EU renegotiations and the fate of a statue of Cecil Rhodes are among a wide range of front page stories.

The Times focuses on a report that puts young people in England bottom of a table of developed countries for literacy and second-bottom for numeracy.

The paper contrasts this with pensioners or those close to retirement age who were among the highest-ranked.

The study, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, found there were nine million people of working age with low literacy or numeracy skills in the country.

Some graduates struggled to estimate how much petrol was left in a tank from looking at the gauge or had difficulty understanding instructions on an aspirin bottle.

The leading nations for skilled young people were Finland, Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands.

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Media captionGuardian social affairs editor Randeep Ramesh and London Evening Standard columnist Rosamund Urwin join the BBC News Channel to review Friday's front pages.

The Telegraph says the report warns: "Those with low basic skills should not normally enter three-year undergraduate programmes, which are both costly and unsuited to the educational needs of those involved, while graduates with poor basic skills undermine the currency of an English university degree."

The Mail laments what it calls "a wasted generation".

"In a devastating report, the OECD warns that, by packing courses with students entirely unsuited to academic studies, universities are undermining the 'currency' of degrees.

"Belatedly, ministers are realising the folly - pursued by Labour and the Tories - of trying to push youngsters off to university, often to study dubious subjects, rather than providing them with the alternative of high-quality vocational apprenticeships.

"But for a generation of young people saddled with massive debts and degrees that employers do not want, the damage - tragically - is already done."


Statue stays

Still on the subject of educational institutions, the Telegraph reports that a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University will not be removed.

Campaigners wanted the statue taken down because they said it represented racism.

A report prepared for governors of Oriel College warned that £1.5m in donations had already been cancelled - and they risked losing a £100m gift by considering the campaign.

Oriel confirmed in a statement to the Telegraph: "Following careful consideration, the college's governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cecil Rhodes' statue is located at Oriel College, Oxford

The Telegraph states: "Oriel's agreement to enter into discussion about the future of the statue triggered a wider row about free speech in universities and whether students need to be protected from offence.

"The college has now been panicked into cancelling the proposed consultation. The plaque on the building where Rhodes lived while a student at Oriel will also stay, but it and the statue will have an accompanying sign providing historical 'context'."

The Telegraph believes Rhodes' opinions reflected the prejudices of his time but intelligent minds are capable of interpreting the past in context.

It comments: "Rhodes will not fall. Oriel College has decided that the controversial statue will stay. It is a pity that it took so long to reach that conclusion and a pity that it required the financial pressure of benefactors.

"But the donors, or potential donors, were overwhelmingly of one entirely rational point of view: the past cannot be rewritten. And it is not the responsibility of Oxford students to try."


'Emergency brake'

The Financial Times leads with David Cameron's efforts to renegotiate the UK's membership of the European Union.

The paper says he is eyeing a June referendum with a deal that would create an "emergency brake" on in-work migrant benefits.

"After months of torrid negotiations, the prime minister will today be offered his flagship demand of a four-year migrant benefit ban - but one that can only be invoked when Britain's welfare system is deemed to be under 'exceptional' strain from immigration," says the FT.

"In the coming days Mr Cameron will make a diplomatic push with senior EU officials to strengthen the terms of the package, before a final sales pitch in Hamburg on 12 February, where he will seek the endorsement of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.

"The deal-making marks the closing straight of Mr Cameron's three-year quest for EU reforms, which he will present to the voters in a referendum that puts Britain's membership on the line and potentially transforms the country's economic and political ties with its neighbours and the world."


Eye-catching headlines

  • There won't be a dry aye in the House: MPs planning to move into temporary accommodation during the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster won't be allowed to drink because it cannot be used for purposes not sanctioned by sharia Times
  • Back to the Future car to be back in the future: The car immortalised in 1985's Back to the Future, the DeLorean, is to be brought back into limited production Guardian
  • Calculus Babylon! Ancient scholars used abstract geometry to track path of Jupiter: The ancient Babylonians used a complex form of geometry to compute the movements of Jupiter about 1,400 years before the same technique was developed in medieval Europe Independent
  • Driver wins £41... after £25 parking ticket leaves car sticky!: A motorist won £41 compensation from a local authority after complaining that a parking ticket left a sticky residue on his car windscreen when he peeled it off Mail
  • It's dirty Gertie... with filthy weather: Storm Gertrude is set to batter parts of the UK today with freezing 90mph gales - then up to four inches of snow Sun

The paper says it is a compromise that Eurosceptics are already denouncing as a British climbdown.

The Guardian says Britain and Europe were moving towards a breakthrough as Mr Cameron prepares to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

"Senior sources in Brussels suggested both sides were nearing agreement on the issue that has been the central and most contentious sticking point in his campaign to rewrite the terms of Britain's EU membership," it continues.

The Telegraph states that Mr Cameron will battle to save his EU renegotiation, amid fears it was stalling, after being offered a watered-down agreement.

The Times says Downing Street fears Brussels could try to force the UK into accepting a deal that would be hard to sell to the British public.


Body shape

The papers report that the Barbie doll has got a new look with tall, curvy and petite body shapes as well as the original one.

"For 56 years she has been loved and loathed, her blonde hair, chiselled cheekbones and impossibly tiny waist the source of passionate debate about young girls' role models," declares the Telegraph.

"But Mattel, which makes Barbie, is confident that 33 new dolls unveiled yesterday will evoke a more positive image of girls' body shapes and better reflect diversity in the real world."

The paper explains that the new models feature seven different skin tones and a variety of hair colours, types and lengths, as well as the body shapes.

Image copyright Mattel
Image caption Tall, curvy, original and petite Barbie

The Guardian says the doll has attracted criticism for giving young girls an unrealistic idea of what the female body should look like since Barbie first came on the market.

If original Barbie was human size she would have an improbable 36in chest, 18in waist and 33in hips, notes the Times. The Sun says they would be a size 2 (original), size 6 (petite), size 10 (tall) and size 16 (curvy).

According to the Mail, Mattel said the fuller-figure model was to recognise how girls nowadays admire curvier stars such as Beyonce and Kim Kardashian.

The Express says the "big-is-beautiful makeover" led to claims that the toy firm was attempting to pander to the politically correct.

Could Ken soon become her cuddlier companion, ponders the Mirror?


Holiday choice

The Guardian believes David Cameron might have a dilemma after he extolled the virtues of having a holiday in the north of England.

The prime minister visited Cumbria and Lancashire where he launched an initiative aimed at helping tourism get back on its feet after the floods.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cornwall is more the Camerons' cup of tea

"From York Minster to Carlisle Castle to the Leeds Armouries, the north has some of the most iconic tourist attractions the UK has to offer," he said.

However, the Guardian notes that Mr Cameron tends to prefer the sunny island of Ibiza or the more exclusive beaches of Cornwall.

It concludes by saying: "Downing Street would not say whether Cameron, who is not known to have holidayed in the north of England during his time in office, would take a break there."