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Sector news, 13 - 17 February 2012

Cameron admits defeat in battle to block new university access tsar The Guardian, 13 February 2012

The new universities access body seen by some Tories as a threat to excellence in universities is likely to be headed by Professor Les Ebdon, although David Cameron is thought to have wanted to block the appointment. A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s office was reported as saying he had no powers to block the appointment made by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) selection panel, including the business secretary Vince Cable. The BIS select committee had voted to recommend Ebdon be rejected, but the committee has only an advisory role. Education secretary Michael Gove had reportedly also wanted to reject Ebdon, saying he was an advocate of social engineering rather than excellence in universities. Ebdon has also criticised government policy on tuition fees.

No 10 scraps plan to penalise early student loan repayments The Guardian, 16 February 2012

A plan to impose penalties on students who pay university loans back early has been scrapped by the government, amid fears hundreds of thousands of people would be hit with unfair charges. There had been a thought of levying annual charges of about 5% on excess payments to stop wealthier students escaping interest charges on the 30-year repayment plans. But a Downing Street spokesman confirmed that the consultation has been dropped.

Institutions count cost of exceeding student cap Times Higher Education, 16 February 2012

English universities have exceeded their numbers cap by thousands of students this year as applicants flocked to avoid higher tuition fees, and large fines are expected. Over-recruitment for 2011-12 is as high as 25,000 across the sector, some believe. That would represent a huge rise on last year, when universities exceeded their cap by just 2,150 places.

Last week:

Graduates: is a 2:1 the best qualification for landing a job? The Guardian, 10 February 2012

Delegates at the Graduate AnswerTime event, hosted by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), Bernard Hodes Group and, heard that around three-quarters of large graduate employers – a proportion that has risen significantly in the past two years – routinely use the 2:1 to sift out applicants. Whether this was an effective gauge of a graduate’s employability and if not, why it is increasingly being used, was discussed at the event. This year Higher Education Achievement Reports will be produced to complement degree grades and attempt to give a more rounded measure of students’ abilities.

UK trails Poland and Bulgaria on adults educated to A-level standard The Guardian, 7 February 2012

Figures have shown several former eastern block countries now have adult populations more highly educated than the UK’s. The UK has a smaller proportion of adults with A-levels or equivalent than Poland or Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, an analysis by the European Union’s official statistics agency shows. Out of 33 countries ranked, the UK came 19th, with Lithuania top and Turkey bottom. A spokeswoman from the Department for Business, innovation and Skills (BIS) said the coalition was overhauling the school system to ensure the poorest could study at college and university and creating thousands more higher-level apprenticeships.




AELP backs minimum duration for young apprentices at end of #NAW2012

The new minimum length of delivery of 12 months for all apprentices aged 16 to 18 has been backed by the head of the association of employment and learning providers (AELP), Graham Hoyle.

WorldSkills UK – The Skills Show announced by John Hayes MP

The skills minister announced a UK successor to the WorldSkills London 2011 competition at a parliamentary reception for National Apprenticeship Week lastweek. WorldSkillsUk – The Skills Show will take place at the NEC near Coventry from November 15-17 2012.

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