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Sector news, 20 - 26 October 2013

Universities putting research before teaching, says minister Guardian, 20 October 2013

Universities need a "cultural change" towards teaching, the universities minister David Willetts has argued, as a survey of UK undergraduates showed they were being set less work and received notably less tutor feedback than did their peers 50 years ago. Willetts, writing in a pamphlet published to mark the anniversary of the 1963 report by the academic Lord Robbins that paved the way for a significant expansion in university education, says the HE system has become "so lopsided away from teaching" that universities need to fundamentally rethink their role and priorities. Willetts cites figures showing that in 1963 academics devoted 55% of their time on average to teaching and 45% to research. For pre-Robbins universities the split is now 40% to 60%, and for institutions created between 1963 and the next huge expansion in universities in 1992 the ratio is 43% to 57%. In contrast, Willetts notes, the former polytechnics and FE colleges that were made universities after 1992 are "heavily focused on teaching", with a 89% to 11% split. A study of more than 17,000 UK undergraduates commissioned by the consumer group Which? found a reduction in the amount of contact time students have with lecturers and the changing nature of feedback about work.

Foundation invites bids to support traineeship delivery FE Weekm 23 October 2013

The Education and Training Foundation has called for organisations to bid to develop support programmes for providers delivering traineeships. The sector self-improvement body said providers were keen to get support in promoting traineeships to learners and employers, securing work placements, providing accurate initial assessment and support for learners. The foundation also said providers were looking for support in delivering the employability elements of the programme. According to a statement from the foundation, the traineeships support programme would have four strands, including improving teaching quality in maths, English and employability skills, supporting providers to engage with employers, focussing on work with SMEs.

Fury at SFA funding software delays FE Week, 24 October 2013

Funding software delays at the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) sparked fury in the FE sector. A delay in supplying providers with the full software system for checking data errors and calculating funding, known as the Funding Information System (FIS), has meant providers will now have just eight working days to check tens of thousands of Individualised Learner Records, rather than the usual two weeks. Some commentators complained they might not even get eight days as some fell in half term when many staff members may have booked leave. Others called for a National Audit Office investigation.

New course will prepare FE lecturers to teach GCSE English FE Week, 25 October 2013

A new training course is set to be launched to prepare FE lecturers for a massive expansion in students who will need to be taught English GCSE. The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed it is developing an English enhancement programme to help FE lecturers teach the subject at GCSE. It is being developed with the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and the Association of Centres for Excellence in Teacher Training (ACETT). It is understood the programme could be launched as early as spring next year. This comes after the ETF announced three weeks ago it will subsidise a new GCSE maths enhancement programme, which will limit the cost of the course to be launched in November to £100 per person.