Skip to main content

Sector News, 23-27 May 2011

Teachers to be sacked more easily under new rules, 23 May 2011

Headteachers will be able to sack teachers who fail to live up to expectations after only a few months in post, under new rules from September. At the moment it can take at least a year to get rid of a poor teacher, or longer if the teacher goes off ill or with stress. But the new regulations will allow a head to sack a poorly performing teacher after a term. The NASUWT said the changes “will give headteachers a licence to bully”.

Teachers quit the UK for Abu Dhabi, 23 May 2011

In a feature the Guardian highlights the number of teachers leaving the UK to teach in sunnier countries – more than 70,000 have done so in recent years. They highlight the case of Beverley Wade, who’s sold her house and horse to clear her debts, and after 13 years teaching in secondary schools is off to the tax-free salary and free flat to teach in a state school in Abu Dhabi. She says she’s disenchanted with the UK education system which has failed to fix the fundamental problems faced by many pupils. Another teacher, Sheelagh Lundy, is off to Abu Dhabi because her after-school project has been closed down in public-sector cuts.

The newly elected NUS head of FE is no 'career politician' The Guardian, 24 May 2011

Janet Murray profiles Toni Pearce, the NUS’s new head of FE. Pearce has a reputation for being feisty but complains that being a 21-year-old woman with a trendy haircut and Top Shop clothes means she’s often misjudged. She says her decision to run for vice-president was motivated by a passion to see FE get the attention it deserves, she says. She sees as her priorities engaging the hardest to reach, such as work-based learners, part-time students and those doing higher education courses at FE colleges, many of whom have been badly hit by government cuts.

Colleges must learn from the financial mistakes of the past The Guardian, 24 May 2011

Many colleges are under pressure to subcontract work, but they must remember the financial scandals of the 1990s, writes Nick Linford. He remembers when colleges subcontracted out the teaching, training and assessment of students, which in some cases ended with the Serious Fraud Office being called in to investigate a number of college when allegations of misuse of millions of public money surfaced. Linford says he’s shocked that now the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is positively encouraging colleges to subcontract it is not imposing a limit on the percentage of funding that can be subcontracted, and he finds it shocking. He revisits the case of Sparsholt College terminating a £4 m contract with Luis Michael Training in December because of “perceived irregularities”.

We'll fight to the finish: Hunt's rallying cry on pensions and private colleges THE, 26 May 2011

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union, has pledged to continue to press private colleges on issues such as quality of provision and working conditions after claiming that the union had received "legal threats" for speaking out. She was speaking before the UCU’s annual congress in Harrogate this week. Hunt also warned that recent changes could create a two tier system split between elite universities for the rich and cheaper provision for poorer students. She was asked if a merger with the National Union of Teachers was a possibility, and said her personal view was that there should be one education union, and the idea was “still on the table”.

Keep it up with the help of a yearly check THE, 26 May 2011

The Leadership Foundation for Higher Education conference in London has advised that university governing bodies should formally assess the sustainability of their institutions each year using key performance indicators, and submit a report of their findings to funding councils. This would give them and their funders early warning of potential problems.

PSA protests to Willetts over demise of grants THE, 26 May 2011

The Political Studies Association has written to the universities and science minister David Willetts to protest against the government's role in ending small grants programmes. The letter from Vicky Randall, professor emeritus at the University of Essex and chair of the PSA, says research funders should be given "maximum freedom" to decide what work is funded and how much is given. Both the Economic and Social Research Council and the British Academy have recently announced the end of their small grants schemes, while a number of small grants programmes run by the Arts and Humanities Research Council have also been halted. The British Academy’s president Sir Adam Roberts has previously blamed government ‘reservations’ for the decline.

London Met course closures may prove costly THE, 26 May 2011

The closure of many courses at London Metropolitan University will cost the university an estimated £6 million in lost income for 2011-12 alone, claims the local University and College Union branch. London Met staff suggest 900 applicants were turned away from courses that are now being closed in the coming year. It is not yet known whether current students will be able to complete their courses, or how many academics will lose their jobs. In 2011-12 London Met must repay £10 million to the Higher education Funding council for England as part of repayments totalling £36 million, demanded after the institution wrongly claimed public money using inaccurate student completion data. The university has declined to comment on the figures for lost income.

Orwell 2.0? De Montfort proposes wi-fi surveillance THE, 26 May 2011

Minutes from a meeting of De Montfort university’s executive board outline an approved proposal to use its wi-fi network to monitor attendance using electronic chips in students’ ID cards. The university says no decision has yet been reached on whether the plan would go ahead. Aaron Porter, the NUS President, said students “will baluk at the prospect of being treated like inmates under surveillance”. Alan J. Ryan, spokesman for the University and College Union at De Montfort, said the UCU understood the idea to be "on the back burner".

Third-stream cash floods in for some but dries up for others THE, 26 May 2011

A total of 98 out of 129 English universities will receive a share of the £600 million earmarked over four years for the Higher Education Innovation Fund, which is used to boost knowledge exchange with businesses and not-for-profit organisations. Some will see their third-stream funding rise by 50 per cent but others will miss out together after a decision to use a formula that concentrates the £150 million annually on what are deemed the most “effective performers”. Among the 20 universities that will receive the maximum annual amount are many big research-intensive institutions but also Coventry University, Cranfield University and London Business School.

'We cannot be certain about every step. But the journey will be worthwhile' THE, 26 May 2011

The coalition government has angered many in higher education by raising the fees cap, cutting grants, and making market reforms, just in the first year. In this long feature, David Willetts, minister of state for universities and science, explains its rationale and why the sector will come to thank him.

 Arts, THE, 26 May 2011

In Everyman’s library of failure, Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent, looks at how it is easier than ever to self-publish, but finds it still carries a stigma of being a last resort for “deluded dimwits”.

The film review is Le Quattro Volte, and reviewer Duncan Wu, professor of English at Georgetown University, is charmed by a plot inspired by Pythagoras and a cast of goats.

A new art exhibition at the Barber Institute at the University of Birmingham is previewed in Court on Canvas: Tennis in Art, the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to the theme of tennis in art.

FEfocus Editorial - A democratic IfL would be more palatable TES, FE Focus, 27 May 2011

The editorial argues that the case for forcing lecturers to join a body that few of them would sign up to by choice has still not been made convincingly. But it says apparent progress in addressing the £68 fee is a promising sign. The TES doubts whether the IfL would survive if it could not do so through voluntary membership, but it is also clear the government does not plan to back down on the legislation. It hopes an agreement can be found in the coming weeks to avoid a protracted war of attrition over fees.

The story that relates to possible progress on the fees decision can be found at Hopes for IfL fee cut gather pace.

Arts college's performance rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted TES, FE Focus, 27 May 2011

Specialist arts college Hereford College of Arts has been judged by Ofsted an “inadequate college where the quality of provision has declined” just four years after it was rated “good” by inspectors. Just four of the 79 colleges inspected in 2009/10 were found to be inadequate. The college has argued that the judgment was “unbalanced and disproportionate to the overall college performance”, and said it would submit a complaint about the report’s findings.

Strikes called over pay row TES, FE Focus, 27 May 2011

Staff at Newcastle College, where the chief executive earned a £72,000 bonus last year, are planning a series of strikes after they were told they would have to apply for new jobs on lower pay. UCU members at the college voted to escalate their dispute at an emergency meeting about plans affecting 185 staff. The union said the changes could mean some staff members losing more than £10,000 from their annual salary. The UCU sais the college does not need to make such large cuts when it is in strong financial health, with a surplus of £6 million in the last financial year. The college has also announced a generous scheme to support students to replace EMA payments. Principal Bev Robinson said the college has had no option after £6.25 million in government funding cuts and changes in priorities.


Slash students' holidays to help unleash their inner tycoon, says principal TES, FE Focus, 27 May 2011

The principal behind an initiative aimed at encouraging the millions of people who attend colleges to start their own businesses has called for student holidays to be slashed. Fintan Donohue, principal of North Hertfordshire College, said students should get used to a 48-week year, timetabling should be scrapped and traditional qualifications downgraded, while profit should be celebrated as potentially life-changing for students. Mr Donohue was last week one of three principals which launched the Enterprising Colleges initiative which aims to integrate enterprise education into the mainstream curriculum.