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Sector News, 15-19 August 2011

Co-operative schools: the antidote to academies The Guardian, Monday 15 August 2011

The number of Co-op schools has trebled in just over a year, so that Co-ops make up the third largest association of schools in England, after those run by the Church of England and Roman catholic churches. The schools are part of the Co-operative movement, with a history dating back to the 19th century. The 2006 Education and Inspections Act established trust schools which were to be set up with weaker links to local authorities than conventional state-funded institutions and which would be run by a trust that could include businesses, charities, faith groups and universities. Of the 500 trust schools in England, Co-operative trusts are the largest grouping.

Free schools setback as ministers publish planning rules The Guardian, Monday 15 August 2011

Campaigners who hope to set up free schools have been dealt a blow after ministers diluted proposals to allow schools to open in shops and houses without planning permission. The announcement follows a public consultation on the proposed changes which produced an overwhelmingly hostile response to the idea of people being able to set up schools in premises without getting “change of use” planning permission. Councils will now still be able to veto new schools on planning grounds.

Money being wasted on badly-managed colleges, say MPs The Guardian, Tuesday 16 August 2011

The public accounts committee has said there are inconsistencies in the way colleges for 16-18 year olds submitted information about finance and results, and has warned the government is wasting money by funding poorly-managed colleges. The committee’s report, Getting Value for Money from the Education of 16- to 18-year-olds, found the cost of educating and training 16-18 year olds in England was £6bn in 2009. Chairwoman Margaret Hodge said that if the market was to work effectively, there "must be relevant and robust information so that students can make informed choices about courses”, and clear criteria for intervention when providers are underperforming. Neither was there at the moment.

A level pupils face a 'frantic' struggle to win university places, Saturday 13 August 2011

The clearing for teenagers who fail to make their A level grades this summer will be "the most frantic and stressful in living memory", the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), Sally Hunt, has warned. But Mary Curnock Cook, the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), said there were no signs that the huge rise in tuition fees next year would create a dramatic rise in competition for places this year. She predicted that there would be a similar number of students to last year, 209,000, competing for the same number of places, just over 46,000. A poll last week by the Press Association found one in four institutions thought it unlikely they would have any vacancies. Many universities including the University of Warwick have no places left on undergraduate courses.

University students seek corporate-sponsored degrees to fund courses, Monday 15 August 2011

Thousands of school-leavers have applied for new corporate-sponsored degree courses or apprenticeship schemes that offer a direct route into a graduate level job. A KPMG programme aimed at school leavers, in which the firm pays for sponsored students at Durham or Exeter University, has had more than 1,000 applications for places. The successful students will become salaried employees of KPMG and will spend the summer holidays combining work with study. The expected scramble for university places is helping foreign universities; Maastrict University, which teaches predominantly in English, has had 450 British applications this year, 250 up on last year.

Locals force rethink on university expansion plan Times Higher Education, Friday 19 August

York St John University has curtailed expansion plans which meant buying a coach and car park from the City of York Council after more than 22,000 people signed a petition against the sale, and local traders said they feared it would harm business. The university had considered building academic teaching or conference facilities on the site. The Labour leader of the council, James Alexander, who also works for the university as a project and outreach officer, said he was disappointed with the decision.

Hepi castigates White Paper Times Higher Education, Thursday 18 August

A report by the Higher Education Policy Institute has highly criticised the government’s White Paper on higher education, saying it will fail to achieve many of the government’s aims and will make some problems worse. It says the result is likely to be a “bipolar” system which exacerbates inequality between institutions. It also warns of high future costs to the taxpayer because of questionable financial modelling.

Another year, another improvement in A-level pass rate Times Higher Education, Thursday 18 August

The A level pass rate has risen for the 29th year in succession, with 97.8 per cent success, up from 97.6 per cent last year. |The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said that, as of midnight, 384,649 applicants had been accepted by universities, up from 379,411 at the same point last year. The total number of applicants this year was 681,593, up from 673,098 in 2010. Dame Athene Donald, chair of the Royal Society Education Committee, welcomed the increase in entries for maths and science, but said the numbers were still too low to meet the needs of business and education. Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said with rising youth unemployment it was not the time for limits on university places, or funding cuts and tuition fee rises.

 Table plots who offers the most for students' fees Times Higher Education, Thursday 18 August

Statisticians at Hertfordshire University have compared the tuition fees of 95 English universities against their league rankings in four rankings tables, and come up with a graph of who offers the best value for money. They say Oxbridge scores highest in the £9,000 category, the London School of economics in the £8,500 group and Hertfordshire is best in the £7,500 cluster. London Met was judged as having the best value at the lower end of the fee spectrum, despite its relatively low place in rankings.

Money may not buy happiness in the post-2012 sector, NSS suggests Times Higher Education, Thursday 18 August

Students opting for £9,000-a-year degrees in 2012 may be less happy with their courses than those on cheaper programmes, analysis of the National Student Survey results suggests. A total of 12 universities which are charging the maximum tuition fee next year had below-average student satisfaction scores. The universities of Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Queen's University Belfast and King's College London all featured in the bottom half of the rankings.

Libraries reject 'raw deal' on e-journals Times Higher Education, Thursday 18 August

Major research libraries have told the two largest journal publishers, Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell, that they will not renew their "big deals" with them if they do not make significant real-terms price reductions. Research Libraries UK, which includes the Russell Group university libraries, as well as the UK's national libraries and Trinity College Library Dublin, currently pay a blanket fee for electronic access to a publisher’s entire journal catalogue. They were initially welcomed by librarians but David Prosser, RLUK's executive director, said above-inflation price increases meant they were no longer affordable. Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell declined to comment to Times Higher.

'Dear student, here's what I really think': online therapy proves a hit Times Higher Education, Thursday 18 August

A report by Sarah Cunnane find that academics are going on line to say things they can’t in the flesh. They are using outlets such as the Facebook group “That’s Professor Uptight to you, Johnny” and anonymous Twitter accounts including @WorstProfessor and @AnnoyedPRProf to berate students and complain about colleagues.

Autonomy by degrees as FE colleges seek to go it alone Times Higher Education, Thursday 18 August

Colleges could end links with universities that make them vulnerable to the universities whims by following the lead of three further education providers that have won degree-awarding powers, the Association of Colleges has said. Newcastle College, West Lancashire College and New College Durham have all been granted powers to award foundation degrees after three years of scrutiny by the Quality Assurance Agency. The AoC does not know how many other colleges will go down this route as it is costly and time consuming.