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Sector news, 24 - 30 November 2013

Careers guidance in ‘crisis’ as survey finds less than one in five given vocational qualification advice

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned that careers guidance is “heading towards a cliff edge”, joining sector-wide calls to ensure young people are aware of all their options. The comments by CBI director for employment and skills policy Neil Carberry, come after a survey of 2000 14 to 25-year-olds showed that only 26 per cent of them were given information on apprenticeships and only 17 per cent were advised on vocational qualifications. The survey, using the Barclays Youth Barometer, which measures young people’s aspirations, also found that only nine per cent received advice on starting their own business, and just over one in 10 (11.8 per cent) received no advice at all. The warning coincided with the publication of a report calling for action on a career advice “crisis”, published by the Skills Commission, a body administered by Policy Connect, a cross-party, non-profit think tank. The report, One System, Many Pathways, says the DfE must acknowledge the crisis in information, advice and guidance and carry out a full review of provision. Since 2012, schools have been responsible for providing careers advice, but the report said teachers were not trained to give careers advice and could not know what every career entailed.

Student unions condemn government sale of loans for £160m Guardian, 25 November 2013

The government has sold a student loans book with a face value of £890m for just £160m, angering student union groups. A consortium called Erudio Student Loans led by the investment fund manager CarVal bought the remaining book of mortgage style loans which were taken out by around 250,000 students between 1990 and 1998. The National Union of Students (NUS) and University of London Union (ULU) said it made "no economic sense". Toni Pearce, the NUS president, said it effectively meant the public was subsidising a private company to profit from government debt. The price paid by Erudio reflects the consortium's assessment of the proportion of loans likely to be paid back in full or in part, with the majority of the book in arrears or deferred. Of the loans sold, just 14 per cent of borrowers are currently repaying their debts. Around 46 per cent are earning below £28,775, the level at which the repayment threshold kicks in. A further 40 per cent are not repaying their debts in line with the terms of their loans. The universities and science minister David Willetts said the deal represented "good value for money, helping to reduce public sector net debt by £160m".

Student borrowing fuels rise in unsecured debt Guardian, 25 November 2013

A borrowing binge by students is responsible for the sharp rise in unsecured consumer borrowing this year, according to a report from the accountancy firm PwC. The new student tuition fees, which almost trebled to a maximum £9,000 last September, caused a 4 per cent jump in unsecured lending to £216bn in 2013. But in a report, Precious Plastic 2013, PwC said the rise disguised an underlying 1 per cent fall in unsecured lending, led by a slide in popularity for traditional forms of credit such as personal loans, overdrafts and credit cards. PwC said students who started university in 2012 can expect to graduate with £40,000-£50,000 in debt and even with the relatively favourable terms, "this significant increase in debt levels is likely to have profound effects on future borrowing and consumption patterns". It said many graduates may delay taking out a mortgage or may struggle to get on the property ladder while they pay off their debts through the new monthly repayment schedule. In the long term it could contribute to the erosion of the UK's home ownership culture.

How can we end the male domination of philosophy? Guardian, 26 November 2013

In this article Jonathan Wolff, professor of philosophy at University College London says there is still an ‘aristocracy of sex’ in the world of philosophy, where women find it hard to thrive. He looks at the example of a number of successful women philosophers and asks if they thrived because they were at university around the time of the second world war when there were few men there and they got the level of attention their talents deserved. He asks what can be done to make philosophy more “gender friendly” and wonders if philosophers first have to act with greater decorum.

Leading an entrepreneurial college: top tips from principals Guardian, 28 November 2013

Warwickshire College principal Marianne Cavalli has written about how a recent Creating Entrepreneurial Colleges conference run by Babson College in America and the Gazelle group of entrepreneurial colleges in the UK (which she is a founding principal of) looked at what colleges will look like in the future, and how they can embrace innovation and create models of affordable learning to transform opportunities for individuals and communities. She reports in this article on insights principals took away from the conference, including the idea of affordable loss, college departments working together, acting immediately and spreading the word about innovative ideas within colleges.

College boards ‘dominated’ by white men FE Week, 29 November 2013

A survey is set to reveal the extent of “under-representation” of black and ethnic minority groups on college governing boards, according to FE Week. The Association of Colleges (AoC) is due to publish its survey on the make-up of English college boards next Spring, but FE Week has seen the results, and said they show a world dominated by white, middle-aged men. At least 81 per cent of governors were white British, 60 per cent were between 45 and 64 (compared with 25.4 per cent of the population being in that age group), and 62 per cent were men. Just 7 per cent of governors were Indian, Pakistani, British Asian, black African or black Caribbean, while some respondents did not give details. The results come from answers from 188 of 339 colleges in the UK. Mei Hui, spokesperson for racial equality group Olmec, said the low representation of ethnic communities was disappointing, and called for a review into where colleges were advertising governor vacancies.