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Sector news, 24 - 28 October 2011

The end of the university conveyor belt The Guardian, 25 October 2011

News reader Alastair Stewart looks at the reported 12% fall in Ucas applications, and argues that it is welcome because it has removed young people from the conveyor belt of thinking university is the right option because it is available, and has encouraged them to think more about what is actually the right path for them. He ended up not returning to university to finish his degree after being offered a job on an ITV news programme.

Universities could cut their fees if they learned to be more businesslike The Guardian, 24 October 2011

Carl Lygo, principal at BPP University College, writes that private universities can charge roughly half the fees of competitors by cutting back on costs in areas that do not directly affect students. He says BPP’s fees are £4-5,000 per year, and they offer degrees in career-focused subjects such as accountancy, business, finance, law and soon health. He says they manage the low fees by cutting back on underutilised classrooms and other spaces which do not directly affect the student experience. And he said recent research shows a typical university could save 20-25% if it took the same approach.

Let's be mature about this - perhaps study is not for us Times Higher, 27 October 2011

Figures about applications to university for 2012-13 show that there has proportionally been a much larger reduction in the number of mature students applying to study, showing that fears the rise in fees could put off older students are turning out to be correct. UCAS statistics this week showed there were 69,724 applicants for all UK courses by 15 October, compared with 76,612 at the same point last year. When an increase in applicants from outside the EU is included it means the decline is 11.9 per cent, but the number of applicants aged 40 or over dropped by 27.8 per cent, those 30-39 by 22.7 per cent and those 25-29 by 21.4 per cent. Applications to the subject areas of architecture, computer sciences and European languages were also the worst hit. The application process does not end until January.

Students to fight fees hike in court Times Higher, 27 October 2011

The High Court will hear a case next week from two 17-year-old sixth-form students who claim the government’s decision to treble the tuition fee cap to £9,000 is ‘unlawful’. Callum Hurley and Katy Moore argue that the fee increase breaches their right to education, which is enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1999. They say the potential debt level of £50,000 under the new fees plan make their right to access education “illusory” because it will deter so many young people from poor backgrounds. The High Court is hearing their case on 1 and 2 November. The case is being brought by Public Interest Lawyers, a Birmingham firm which is also behind a legal challenge by English students against fees policy in Scotland, arguing it is illegal to charge £9,000 fees to English students when Scottish and other European Union students pay nothing.

Providers feel the pressure as post-16 cuts are laid bare TES, 28 october 2011

A report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that post-16 colleges are facing real-terms cuts of around 20 per cent by 2014/15 for the 16-19 agenda, and in 2011/12 is facing a 4.1 per cent drop in spending, with the figure at 6 per cent for FE and sixth form colleges. The IFS’s Trends in Education and Schools Spending report argues that FE is being hit by a "disproportionately large cut" at the time that school funding is being reduced by just 1 per cent. The TES said under Labour FE spending increased more quickly than schools funding so this change is a bit shift.

Colleges are forced to turn away adult learners TES, 28 october 2011

The TES reports that colleges are struggling to cope with a push in demand for adult places that they are not able to fund, and are having in some cases to turn prospective students away. A survey by the Association of Colleges found that since last year 44 per cent of colleges have seen a fall in demand for places for learners aged 19 and over, in many cases planned with some reducing intakes as they react to reduced levels of government funding. But 35 per cent have seen their 19-plus demand go up, but their funding settlement hasn’t kept up with it. They are having to turn students away and have less scope for offering places to Neets.