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Sector news, 21-25 January 2013

A-level overhaul could cripple school system, say critics Guardian, 23 January 2013

Critics of the government's plans to overhaul A levels to encourage "deeper- thinking" and end the mid-way AS exams are warning that the reforms will coincide with the introduction of the new Ebacc qualification for 16-year-olds and could cripple the school system. The changes were announced on Wednesday. Universities are to help with the academic contact of the A level, and the one year AS level will become an exam on its own but not a stepping stone to a two-year A level. The NUT pointed out the clash with the introduction of the new Ebacc and Cambridge University stated its opposition to the combined AS exams being scrapped, saying they were useful for identifying the most talented applicants. The changes are due in 2015.


Must do better: Only 16% of pupils obtain A* to C grades in EBacc examsThe Independent, 24 January 2013

Fewer than one in six pupils qualified for the Government’s new flagship English Baccalaureate, exam league tables show today. The results tables show only 16 per cent obtained top grade A* to C grades in the subjects covered by the EBacc - English, maths, the sciences, a foreign language and a humanities subject - history or geography. The result is only one percentage point up on last year. Heads were put under a lot of pressure to put pupils in for the five subjects which are thought vital to getting a place at a top UK university. A total of 195 schools failed to achieve the minimum 40 per cent of pupils gaining five A* to C grade passes at GCSE including maths and English and could now be either closed, be forced into academy status or be taken over by a sponsor.


Sector forced to play wild variations on a recruitment themeTHE, 24 January 2013

Some post-1992 universities seem to have suffered a huge collapse in student demand under the new fees and funding system, but half of the Russell Group's English members have also lost undergraduate numbers. Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show the reforms have produced wild variations in recruitment. Some in the sector suggest that declining post-1992 university figures indicate that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are most likely to decide against higher education with higher fees. London Metropolitan University is down 43 per cent from 2011-12 and the University of Bolton down 25 per cent. The intake at 10 of the 20 English members of the Russell Group has also declined.


Western institutions form posse in bid for a fistful of research dollarsTHE, 24 January 2013

The universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter are the latest institutions to club together in an effort to maximise their research strengths in the face of increasing competition. On 24 January they launched GW4 which stands for Great Western Four, a formal collaboration set to rival the existing N8 alliance of research-intensive universities in the North of England and the M5 group in the Midlands. In differing combinations the institutions already collaborate on four research council doctoral training centres, as well as on programmes in translational medicine, food security, chemical catalysis and technology transfer.


Universities bypassed as teaching goes directTHE, 24 January 2013

A university education department has warned that it may have to make redundancies as a result of government cuts to allocations of teacher training places. Higher education institutions providing teacher training have taken a substantial hit to their allocations, with core postgraduate places for 2013-14 down 12.8 per cent from last year and 9.2 per cent since 2011-12, according to a Times Higher Education analysis of figures from the Department for Education. At the University of Cumbria, 177 places have been lost over the two-year period, with 148 being cut in the past year. Samantha Twiselton, executive dean of the Faculty of Education at Cumbria, said this would mean job losses in her department. The University of Sheffield has suffered a cut in places of 76.2 per cent over the past two years, while the University of Warwick lost 129 places last year - a 37.9 per cent reduction - as well as 24 in 2011-12. Fourteen other universities were subject to reductions of more than a quarter in the past year.


V-c warns of massive threat posed by MoocsTHE, 24 January 2013

Universities face a serious threat from free online degree courses, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge has warned. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said the rise of massive open online courses - known as Moocs - offered by world-class institutions such as Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology "will challenge the nature of higher education". Speaking at a conference titled We Don't Need No Education? Visions of Higher Education for the 21st Century, organised by student thinktank the Wilberforce Society, Sir Leszek said that less prestigious universities that focused on teaching rather than research could struggle in the face of new online courses.


Careers advice ‘getting worse,’ warns government education committee FE Week, 23 January 2013

A government review has found that the quality and quantity of young people’s career advice is not good enough and is getting worse. The service became the responsibility of schools in September and there has been a “deterioration” in guidance since then the Education Select Committee found. Committee chair Graham Stuart questioned schools impartiality and said they put their own interests ahead of pupils. He called for the National Careers Service to be extended to support schools. FE Week promises reaction to the findings next week.