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Sector news, 15 - 19 October 2012

Can universities afford to stay single any longer? Guardian, 15 October 2012

This article looks at the example of University College London, King’s College and Imperial College who have come together in a £630 million project to build the Frank Crick Institute, a research organisation for medicine. It is having the effect of putting pressure on universities outside the capital to form alliances to stand a chance of competing.


 Sixth-formers pay up to £350 to cheat university admissions system Guardian, 15 October 2012

Sixth-formers are paying up to £350 for personal statements written by graduates to help them cheat the university admissions procedure, an Observer investigation has discovered. The newspaper found dozens of companies advertising on the internet although UCAS which administers the university application system says on its website: “"Don't be tempted to copy another person's application materials, or download your personal statement from a website. There could be serious consequences to using other people's work." The personal statements are one aspect of the admissions procedure that critics believe benefits the children of better educated and well-off parents. Educated parents can use their own experience to help their children's application while richer parents can pay someone else to do it for them. Ucas says that about 1% of university applications – about 8,000 – are identified as potentially fraudulent each year.


 Apprentice numbers pass magic 500,000 mark TES, 19 October 2012

Apprenticeships passed the symbolic mark of 500,000 starts last year, but for one of the groups most in need of them - teenagers - numbers declined for the first time since the beginning of the financial crisis. In 2011 then FE minister John Hayes said his ambition was to create half a million apprenticeships a year by the end of this Parliament. Numbers of under-19s apprenticeships fell by more than 14 per cent in the third quarter and 10 per cent in the fourth quarter. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills highlighted the rise in higher-level apprenticeships, which rose from 2,100 to 3,500 last year. Training providers, which are responsible for the majority of apprenticeships, blamed the ongoing lack of economic growth, as under-19 apprenticeships are more reliant on the creation of new jobs.


 Planned qualifications to cut down requirements TES, 19 October 2012

The amount of study required for FE teachers to become qualified will be halved under proposals for a new diploma in teaching. After Lord Lingfield’s criticisms of the FE teacher training regime in his government-commissioned report on the subject, the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) unveiled its plans for new qualifications.

Teacher trainers are still complaining they do not know if the new qualifications will be compulsory, and that the cut in the credit value of the qualification will reduce its effectiveness and undermine its credibility compared with training for schoolteachers.

LSIS rejected Lord Lingfield’s recommendation to abolish the Level 3 or Level 4 certificate, and instead proposes a revised introductory certificate now called a Level 3 award in education and training, worth 12 credits or 48 hours of teaching, equivalent to the existing qualification in preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector. FE teachers will also be able to continue their training with a Level 4 certificate, worth 30 credits, or a Level 5 diploma, worth 60 credits. But the previous diploma was worth 120 credits. James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers said it will put another obstacle in the way of efforts to make FE and schoolteacher qualifications equivalent.  Specific qualifications in teaching English, maths and English for speakers of additional languages are also proposed, as well as for teaching disabled learners. The proposals are open for consultation until December.


Graduates to be offered £20,000 to train as computer science teachers Guardian, 19 October 2012

Graduates are to be offered £20,000 scholarships to train as computer science teachers in an initiative launched by the government and backed by companies including Microsoft and Facebook. The plan is to overhaul computer science education, giving children the skills to write programs rather than just focusing on word processing skills. The new teacher training courses will begin next September, when around 50 scholarships will be available to applicants with a 1st or a 2.1 degree.


First fall in proportion of pupils getting five good GCSEs Guardian, 18 october 2012

The proportion of teenagers scoring at least five Cs at GCSE including English and maths has fallen for the first time, official figures show. In total, 58.6 per cent of pupils in England achieved five A* to C grades, including the two key subjects, down almost half a percent on 2011, according to government data. Statisticians said the drop was down to fewer English entries from private schools, but there are also likely to be concerns that issues with this year's GCSE English grading may have played a part.


Coalition's child poverty adviser: bring back EMA Guardian, 18 October 2012

The coalition made "a very bad mistake" when it abolished the education maintenance grant or EMA in England which is aimed at helping poorer 16- to 17-year-olds stay on at school, Alan Milburn, the government's adviser on child poverty and social mobility said in an interview with the Guardian. He also said there was no evidence that money being spent on tuition fee waivers which were designed to help low-income students at university was “in any way” effective. He suggested the budget for the fee waivers money, which is going to be £261 million in 2015/16 should be transferred to restoring a revised form of the EMA.


Social mobility flatlining at best, says government adviser Guardian, 18 October 2012

Social mobility in the UK could be reversed unless the government and universities make changes to encourage and pay for more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to take degrees, according to the government's independent adviser on the issue. Alan Milburn said in a report that social mobility was now “flatlining at best” after gains in the early part of the last decade. He suggested changes across government policy and the way universities chose, fund and encourage students from more disadvantaged areas. Suggestions include offering all students from poorer backgrounds an interview and considering offering places to those with lower grades. Because some universities – especially from the Russell Group of higher ranked institutions – have objected to such a move in the past, Milburn offers them alternatives, including running new programmes to assess and prepare school-leavers, such as summer schools, and guaranteeing interviews to pupils from schools in disadvantaged areas.