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Sector news, 12 - 16 December 2011

Tuition fees could bring bonanza for humanities The Guardian, 12 December 2011

In his column Jonathan Wolff, Professor of Philosophy at University College London, looks at how teaching of humanities in universities might be on the rise after all. Although there may no longer be any money from the government for teaching classroom-based arts and humanities subjects, in charging the same fee for everyone money can be made. He predicts the Russell group universities will be expected to try to expand in the humanities, but further down the line other universities with humanities departments might lose out. Private providers might also step in.

Universities risk aggressive marketing The Guardian, 12 December 2011

Universities are trying to change their images to market themselves in the new climate of £9,000 a year fees. There is increasing competition for students with AAB or above at A levels, and institutions are trying to justify their high fees by showing they offer something better than the rest. Instead of focusing on student social life and attractions of their town in recruitment campaigns they are looking at employment prospects, engaging with industry and lecturer contact hours, making it obvious what students are going to get for their money. But Rob Behrens, chief executive of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, which deals with student complaints says universities need to be careful that they describe the reality of what’s going to happen to students.

Exam boards investigation: Edexcel to record future seminars The Telegraph, 13 December 2011

Exam board Edexcel has said it is “deeply concerned” about findings by the Daily Telegraph which got reporters to pose as teachers and attend guidance sessions with its staff, where they were told there was less to learn with their exams than rival courses, and “you don’t have to teach a lot”. It is going to create new guidance for staff who give presentations to teachers, and is to record all its seminars, plus inviting Ofqual and Department of Education officials to attend. The newspaper said it led to conclusions that exam boards are driving down standards by competing with one another to persuade schools to adopt their tests.

You can find stories affecting the FE world in

Stories this week include:

National Audit Office report is critical of BIS and SFA bureaucracy reform , and also interviews Chris Shapcott, NAO director of regulatory reform, about the report.

Dozen new ‘studio schools’ announced – about the DfE announcement of another 12 vocationally-based schools with links to major employers.

Employers need greater incentives to invest in apprenticeships, says UKCES , which looks at a report published this week by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

Painting over cracks is not enough for apprentices TES, 16 December 2011

A report by Hilary Steedman, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics, states that in countries where apprenticeships are far more popular with employers than in England, participants are expected to carry out nine times the amount of training, 900 hours compared with a minimum of 100 here. The report states that the Conservative aim of apprenticeships to promote higher skill levels has been sacrificed to the desire to increase the numbers employed. Dr Steedman also suggested money was being wasted sending training providers around the country to assess young people and said employers should train and assess their own apprentices.

Plan to part-privatise colleges stumbles at the first hurdle TES, 16 December 2011

A plan to part-privatise a college for the first time has fallen through, with the college expected to choose a traditional merger instead. City College Birmingham has turned down a deal proposed by former Coca-Cola executive Chris Banks, who served as chairman of the Learning and Skills Council. The TES says it understands the deal collapsed because it was taking a long time to finalise the details, and the college’s financial problems were too urgent.