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Sector news, 23-27 July 2012

Clearing 2012: elite universities likely to enter the fray this year The Guardian, 24 July 2012

For the first time this year elite research-intensive universities are likely to be looking for business through clearing alongside their newer counterparts. Universities are uncertain how the first cohort of students to be facing £9,000 fees will behave. UCAS has so far confirmed that applications to British universities are down 7.7 per cent, with three institutions seeing a fall of more than 20 per cent. Universities who suffered cuts to their numbers this year are keen to get extra top-scoring students to make up their losses, so competition will be fierce. The top universities are likely to be in clearing as they don’t know if they will get their top scoring students and if they will keep them. Another level of unpredictability is that with higher fees many universities are expecting an increased use of the UCAS “adjustment period” which lets candidates who get higher than their offer grades shop around for five days while their original institution waits to see what they do. Many universities have also lost a safety harness because far fewer students chose to defer last year so they do not have the usual number of guaranteed students.

Home Office suspends university's licence to recruit foreign students The Independent, 21 July 2012

One of the most popular universities in England for international students has had its licence to recruit from overseas suspended by immigration officials. London Metropolitan University announced it had been dropped from the UK Border Agency's list of "highly trusted sponsors" while it worked to "clarify issues" over its handling of students from outside the European Union. Hours after the statement from the university the Home Office was unable to confirm the suspension or the concerns that led to it. The UKBA is understood to have identified problems in two recent audits surrounding attendance monitoring and English language testing. London Met has about 10,000 foreign students on its books and is only the second university to have been suspended from the sponsor register. Students already enrolled and those who have already been granted a visa for study in 2012 would not be affected.

Make maths compulsory for all students until the age of 18, leading scientists urge The Independent, 21 July 2012

Mathematics should be a compulsory subject for everyone aged 16 to 18 whether they are doing A-levels in humanities or training courses to become beauticians or plumbers, according to leading scientists. Even science students who have maths A-level can find they fall short of what is needed when they ender university, experts found. The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology has recommended that drastic action be taken to promote a greater awareness and understanding of mathematics in schools.

Top universities forced to introduce remedial maths classes Daily Telegraph, 24 July 2012

Standards in schools have slipped so low that GCSE maths now amounts to little more than "glorified numeracy" while even those with top grades at A-level are woefully ill-equipped to study maths and science at university. A combination of the "modular" A-level system, which allows pupils to bypass fields such as calculus, and a "race to the bottom" between exam boards are driving the problem, a House of Lords report has said. Many science and maths students had to be given “remedial” classes upon arrival at university, the report for the Lords science and technology select committee found.

University tuition fees to rise in England next year The Guardian, 26 July 2012

University tuition fees are set to rise next year, with students having to pay on average just over £8,500. A third of English institutions will charge the maximum £9,000 as standard, according to official figures. Around three in four will charge the top rate for at least one of their undergraduate courses. Union leaders said that the latest figures show that fees of more than £6,000 are becoming the norm rather than the exception. Among the further education colleges, three are expected to have fees of £9,000 for at least one course, and one will charge the maximum across the board.

 UK government will enforce open access to development research The Guardian, 25 July 2012

The results of scientific research tackles disease, food security issues and poverty in the developing world will become freely available as part of the government's plans to open up access to publicly funded studies. The requirement for open access to development research will be announced on Thursday and apply to all work funded by the Department for International Development after 1 November. The policy will put the department in line with the push for open access across the rest of government. Last week, the science minister David Willetts announced that all published scientific research funded by the UK Research Councils would be immediately available for anyone to read free of charge by 2014.

Number of primary school suspensions for assaults rises The Guardian, 25 July 2012

More primary school children have been suspended for assaulting their teachers and classmates, DfE statistics show, but there have been fewer suspensions and permanent exclusions of children overall. Data shows there were 7,830 fixed-term exclusions for youngsters aged between five and 11 for attacking a member of staff in 2010/11, up from 7,230 in 2009/10. In total, children of all ages were suspended 161,540 times for assaulting or verbally abusing their classmates and teachers - equivalent to 850 suspensions a day. The statistics suggest the situation in primaries is worsening, as primary age pupils were suspended 9,160 times in 2010/11 for physically assaulting another child, up from 9,030 occasions the previous year. Attacks on pupils and staff by secondary school pupils have fallen.

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