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Sector news, 14 - 18 November 2011

University fees: confusion reigns The Guardian, 14 November 2011

Mike Baker examines the complexities surrounding the fees charged by universities from next year, and how many have now applied to change the amount they had originally said they would charge. He asks how do applicants make sensible decisions about where to sutdy as the new regime has created nothing but confusion.

124 Sure Start centres have closed since coalition took power The Guardian, 14 November 2011

Figures show that the number of Sure Start centres has fallen from 3,631 to 3,507 since the coalition government was formed, a reduction of 124. The centres, which were set up under the previous government, have been credited with helping to reduce child poverty. Lord Hill of Oareford, the education minister, said just six centres had closed, and that most of the reduction was caused by local reorganisations and mergers. #

Permanent underclass is emerging in UK, businesses warn The Guardian, 17 November 2011

A report this week warned that Britain risks creating an underclass of people who are permanently excluded from the prospect of employment. The survey of 1,000 UK employees and 500 employers found that 73 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of workers believe there is a permanent underclass emerging with a poor education and background which leaves them virtually unemployable. The survey was carried out by human resources services provider Adecco Group, which also found that 57 per cent of employers do not have an apprenticeship programme and only 51 per cent think they are cost effective.

'Crazy' visa policy could wipe out surpluses Times Higher, 17 November 2011

There are concerns about the impact of the new visa policy on university admissions numbers. Ed Smith, pro-chancellor and chair of council at the University of Birmingham, said the student visa changes introduced by the Home Office had created a crazy system that risked tarnishing the reputation of UK higher education abroad. Speaking at the Higher Education Funding Council for England's annual meeting last week, he said universities could see financial surpluses wiped out if the decline in the international student market continued. There is mounting anecdotal evidence that universities are being hit by a downturn in demand from Indian students, with applications for some universities down 20-30 per cent. Uncertainty about the chances of now being able to stay in the UK after graduation are also thought to be behind the fall.

Sector strives to retain teacher-training function Times Higher, 17 November 2011

Universities will "do everything in their power" to retain their role in initial teacher training after reforms that will put the focus on school-based courses. John Moss, dean of the Faculty of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University, said that the courses, at undergraduate and postgraduate level, were "so core to the mission and the focus" of the universities that provide them. The Department for Education has told universities that only those able to demonstrate "extensive school involvement" in their courses would "continue to have a role" in providing such training under the new plans for initial teacher training.

Tax-dodging private tutors may total 100,000 TES, 18 November 2011

This article looks at the potential numbers of people involved in private tutoring who have until 6 January to admit what they are doing to the taxman. Mike Wells, director of risk and intelligence services at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs believes there could be up to 100,000 tutors and coaches, including many thousands of teachers and retired teachers, who have not properly declared their income. They then have until the end of March to pay what HMRC thinks is owed and any penalties that may have been imposed. Mr Wells then warns that after that the others who have not come forward will be found, and fined between 30 and 100 per cent of what is due on top.

Colleges urge ministers to free up cash for innovation TES, 18 November 2011

An inquiry into colleges and their local communities argues that colleges should have half their adult skills budget freed up to address local priorities instead of national targets. The suggestion is at the heart of a final report of an inquiry by adult education body Niace, the Association of Colleges and the 157 Group. The report argues that the role of colleges is not just to provide qualifications to meet the skills needs of local employers, but to reach out to marginalised and disadvantaged groups, and that funding should reflect this.

Small business wooed in a bid to stem the tide of young jobless TES, 18 November 2011

Education secretary Michael Gove and business, innovation and skills secretary Vince Cable held a summit with business leaders this week in the wake of concerns that the growth in apprenticeships was focused mainly on over 25s and was not doing much for youth unemployment. There were also concerns their quality was suffering as there is an attempt to increase their numbers. Grants of £1,500 will be offered to small businesses to encourage them to take on 16-24 year olds and every apprenticeship will be required to include literacy and numeracy up to GCSE level instead of level 1. Colleges said ministers underestimated how much work was needed to help large numbers of students who failed to reach GCSE level at school, and the increase in level could put the success of apprenticeships at risk.