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Sector news, 1 - 12 July 2013

Michael Gove axes six-week summer holidays for schools Guardian, 1 July 2013

The Department for Education has announced that schools will get the power to set their own term dates. The change is included in the government's deregulation bill, which removes the role of local authorities in fixing the dates of school terms and leaves the decision to school leaders and governors. Some school leaders have warned that too much variation could create chaos for families with children at different schools. Academies, free schools and voluntary-aided and foundation schools are already able to set their own teaching hours and term dates. The change is due to take place from September 2015 affecting the 70 per cent of state primary schools and 30 per cent of state secondaries still under local authority control.

Graduate recruitment at highest level since 2008Guardian, 1 July 2013

Students who are graduating from university have the most positive employment prospects since the onset of the financial crisis, despite competition for jobs remaining fierce. A survey of the intentions of the 100 largest organisations recruiting graduates – including Apple, Oxfam, Marks & Spencer and MI5 – by High Fliers Research has found a 4.6 per cent increase in hiring, raising graduate recruitment to its highest level since 2008. The survey found the biggest increases in graduate employment were in the public sector and armed forces. Engineering and industrial companies are taking on 800 extra graduates this year out of the 17,000 total. The figures confirm the progress of 2012 graduates revealed by a separate nationwide survey by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) which found that 91 per cent of students who completed courses in 2012 were either in employment, in further study or training six months after they graduated.

The postgraduate funding problem and three possible solutionsGuardian, 4 July 2013

This article by Bob Burgess, vice chancellor of the University of Leicester, argues that existing routes into postgrad study need refreshing if the UK is to sustain its world-class academic workforce. The number of UK students on postgraduate taught degree courses has begun to decline after a decade of relatively high growth according to a new Hefce report, and the number of overseas students has also started to decline, hit by a tougher visa regime and more competition from other countries. The article looks at ideas including splitting a course between home and foreign institutions for overseas students, persuading more employers to fund postgraduate education or increasing the number of postgraduate degrees based on distance learning.

Vocational skills to get their own ‘unashamedly aspirational’ A-levelFE Week, 4 July 2013

A new ‘Tech-level’ qualification for vocational education was announced by the government today to sit alongside the A-level academic route. They will run from next year and were described by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock as “unashamedly aspirational”, aimed at raising the status of vocational education in England. Local employers will be asked to support Tech-levels either through work experience or by helping to design courses. The Association of Colleges said its research supported endorsement of qualifications by businesses and universities.

Local Enterprise Partnerships to get college co-operation sweetenersFE Week, 4 July 2013

Three local enterprise partnerships are to pilot a sweetener scheme aimed at improving relationships between colleges and local enterprise partnerships. LEPs in the North East, Stoke and Staffordshire, and the West of England have been chosen for the Skills Funding Agency-backed trial to incentivise co-operation. The move follows a report from the Association of Colleges in September called Local Enterprise Partnerships and Colleges that revealed “patchy” engagement between the two.

Lower fees, fewer essays, what's not to like about School Direct?Guardian, 8 July 2013

The new School Direct teacher training scheme has come under attack, with critics saying it will cause chaos. There have been fears it will not train enough teachers and there may then be a shortage, or it might lack some of the essential grounding offered by a university-based PGCE. In this article Louise Tickle visits a teaching school to talk to recruits who are very happy with the training they have had. However there are concerns about the management of the scheme and an apparent shortfall in applicants.

Students: we can't get no satisfaction Guardian, 8 July 2013

Undergraduates were promised 'consumer power' with their £9,000 fees but instead many feel nobody is listening to them. Almost a year into the new fees regime formal appeals and complaints against universities by students have shot up, and several campuses have had protests aginst the way institutions are organising their finances. In this article Rebecca Ratcliffe looks at whether students actually feel powerful as consumers, or whether they feel they are not being listened to in ways that benefit them.

University applications rise despite drop in mature students Guardian, 9 July 2013

Ucas says 637,500 students applied for university place this year, but there were fewer applicants aged 24 and above. The number of applications from older and part-time students continued to lag while overall applications increased by 3 per cent this year, according the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas). The highest demand has been for courses in computer sciences, up 10 per cent, and biology, up 7 per cent. Applications to study European languages have fallen by 5 per cent.