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27 June - 1 July

David Willetts opens up market for student places, Tuesday 28 June 2011

The Higher Education white paper revealed this week means that universities will be able to compete against each other for a quarter of the students they recruit next year. They will be allowed to recruit unlimited numbers of the best performing students – those who get AAB or higher at A level, rather than at present where each has a fixed number of government–funded places for home undergraduates. The move will put pressure on mid-ranking institutions to bring down fees or improve quality to attract more students. The proportion of places open to competition would increase each year from 2012.

Teachers' strike could shut down thousands of schools, Monday 29 June 2011

An estimated 17,000 schools in England could be affected by the planned strike by teachers protesting against changes to pensions. The NUT estimates that up to 85 per cent of England’s 20,000 primary and secondary schools will be closed or partly closed on Thursday 30 June. The University and College Union said it was expecting “significant disruption” at about 350 colleges and 75 universities. Teachers and lecturers say the proposed pension changes will lead to them working longer, paying in more and receiving less when they retire. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary has also said members have been threatened with disciplinary action if they strike, in a story entitled Teachers' strike participants 'being intimidated', union claims.

Are colleges cutting more jobs than they need to?, Monday 29 June 2011

The Guardian’s survey of cuts from the government’s austerity measures has found 4,300 further education posts at risk so far, and it says unions are questioning whether some jobs are being lost needlessly while college financial balances seem to be in good health. The UCU and Unison surveyed 140 colleges in April and found more than 93 per cent had shed staff since June 2009, but 53 per cent said they planned to make further redundancies. The article uses the example of Newcastle College, where more than 200 full-time equivalent job losses are to go, though the management says 188 new jobs have been created. The college is part of a group that made a £6m surplus last year, but lecturers have been either offered redundancy or asked to apply for new jobs that would pay only £22,500 a year.

Is this the end for lollipop people?, Monday 29 June 2011

Lollipop men and women have been a national institution since the 1953 School Crossing Patrols Act, but they have never been required by law and now as the cuts bite one in four councils is now looking to cut crossing patrol numbers or scrap the service entirely. The Department for Transport says four million children, accompanied or alone, walk or cycle to school in the UK every day, and in 2009 seven were killed or seriously injured every day, including two at traffic lights, pelican and zebra crossings. Parents are fighting back over threats to the service in many areas, with Dorset county council even urging town and parish councils, schools and community groups to find their own funding or set up a volunteer service instead.

The Times Higher Education of 30 June has a number of stories about the government’s White Paper on Higher Education.

White Paper: disquiet as sector-wide vision turns into 'numbers control' looks at the fears of senior figures in education who say it could compromise quality through putting on pressure to lower fees, and warned that new competition for the top-achieveing students could clash with universities’ aims for widening participation. In White Paper: more power for Hefce to tackle failings, Simon Baker writes that the Higher Education Funding Council for England will, under proposals in the White Paper, have beefed up powers which will enable it to be a “consumer champion” or regulator, able to withdraw an institution’s access to fee loan money. It is proposed that all types of providers should come under regulatory scrutiny if their students access loans.

The article 'Well-regarded' providers in line for less frequent, light-touch inspections says the inspection of universities by the standards watchdog should move towards a “risk-based” approach which cuts red tape for “well-regarded” institutions, mean a less frequent level of inspections than that currently operated by the Quality Assurance Agency, which carries out an institutional review every six years. David Willetts, universities and science minister, said a new provider might well start off with more frequent assessments than someone who’s been assessed for decades. White Paper: small colleges to get a shot at title looks at the proposal to ease restrictions on what could be called a university. The article says it could make it easier for foreign-based and private institutions to set up in the UK. Some providers currently can’t seek the title because they have a small student body – institutions must currently have at least 4,000 full time students with 3,000 of them on degree-level courses.

There is also Leader: A big paper but no grand plan, which argues that the proposals promise radicalism but show a “disturbing lack of vision”.


There's no good reason for this inequality Times Higher Education, 30 June 2011

Liz Schafer, professor of drama and theatre studie s at Royal Holloway, University of London, writes about her four-year battle with her institution over a gender pay gap, which was ultimately empowering. She hopes it will help other women fighting for equality. In one department at the Royal Holloway she discovered female professors faced a pay gap averaging £9,000.

Arts Times Higher Education, 30 June 2011

The arts section this week features René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle, an exhibition which is being shown at Tate Liverpool until 16 October. Alex Danchev says the show is awe-inducing, and intertwines banality and mystery magnificently.

The film review looks at Robert Redford’s period courtroom drama The Conspirator, a cautionary tale of flawed American justice, which is released in the UK on 1 July. Duncan Wu says the story of the only woman implicated in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln and the man who defended her at the court martial that determined her fate is a restrained drama and scrupulous in how it reconstructs the period, though he objects to the soft-focus lens used for much of it, and some of its politics.

The TV review considers Scott and Bailey, with Gary Day finding the writing of ITV’s new female detective series sharp and the acting compelling.

The Pick - Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the Twentieth Century looks at an exhibition of photography at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, until 2 October, and argues that it was the Hungarians who created many of the iconic images of the 20th century.

'How long have we got left? About 30 seconds'  FE Focus, 1 July 2011

This feature by Joseph Lee looks at the determination and dedication of young students trying to win a place in the British team at the Skills Olympics which take place later this year. He visits North Warwickshire and Hinckley College’s Nuneaton campus where students are competing in graphic design, flower arranging and programming robotics. Many students across the country have already been training for 18 months for the Skills Olympics, and by the time of the finals the contestants will have had up to £90,000 invtested in each of them by the National Apprenticeship Service, to bring them up for the equivalent of A level standard to graduate level in less than two years.

White Paper says colleges can vie for 20,000 low-cost HE places FE Focus, 1 July 2011

The education White Paper means colleges will be able to compete for an extra 20,000 low-cost higher education places as the Government tries to slow the rush towards £9,000-a-year degrees. The places will be open to institutions charging an average fee of less than £7.500 which includes most of the 262 colleges that teach HE courses. Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said colleges wanted to see more places reserved for affordable courses and a lower threshold than £7,500, but he added that this was a “welcome first step”.

IfL faces boycott threat over compulsory fees FE Focus, 1 July 2011

More than 70 per cent of members of the University and College Union who voted in a ballot on proposals for a £38-a-year membership fee of the Institute for Learning have rejected the proposal. It means the UCU will ballot on whether to refuse to renew membership of the IfL as required by law. The UCU said that the 32 per cent turnout was higher even than the national votes on pay and pensions. But the IfL said more than a third of its 200,000 members had already renewed ahead of the deadline in July and that its opponents in UCU were a minority.

Hayes aims for half a million apprentices FE Focus, 1 July 2011

The government says it has created 103,000 new adult apprenticeships in 2010/11, double its 50,000 target. But skills minister John Hayes has said the number of apprentices in England could hit 500,000 before the next general election. He told FE Focus he hoped to continually expand the programme. A BIS spokesman confirmed that the figures included learners who had previously been on the Train to Gain scheme, which officially closes at the end of this month.