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Sector News, 11-15 July 2011

Universities given go-ahead to charge £9,000 tuition fees, 12 July 2011

A far higher number of English universities than the government originally expected are to charge £9,000 as their standard fee next year, after their proposals for widening access to poorer students were approved by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA). Out of 147 universities, 47 will charge the maximum amount across all courses. OFFA said though that fewer than half students will be charged the full £9,000 once discounts for poorer students and other financial support had been taken into account. OFFA said it had had discussions with 52 institutions over their initial proposals and asked 25 to be more ambitious on their targets for widening access.

Is widening participation ethical?, Monday 11 July 2011

The idea of widening participation has been considered in the setting of fees for university places. But a seminar being held this week by the Society for Research in Higher Education suggests that widening participation may be wrong and also unethical. It is a debate that has gone on since the agenda came to the fore under Labour, but has gained new impetus after the changes to funding that will leave most graduates thousands of pounds in debt, and in increased competition for graduate jobs, with figures showing 83 graduates are chasing every vacancy. Michael Watts, freelance researcher and affiliated lecturer at the University of Cambridge's faculty of education, and one of the speakers at the seminar argues that the best jobs and salaries will still tend to go to those who enjoyed the most social and financial support before they went to university, and that higher education is not the only means of achieving well-being.

Colleges are a haven for some young people, Monday 11 July 2011

Sue Rimmer, principal of South Thames College and a council member of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, argues that further education collegea might be the only places young people can learn and develop life skills. Her college has seen tensions grow among disadvantaged and disaffected young people, and has extended activities such as a safe-living programme, and other volunteering, youth leadership and enrichment activities into the summer months. She says that as cuts hit youth clubs and other outlets there is nowhere but college left for young people to go.