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Sector news, 4 - 8 February 2013

Rising number of postgraduates 'could become barrier to social mobility' 7 February, 2013

The number of people with a postgraduate degree has almost tripled in a little over 15 years. This risks becoming another barrier to social mobility for poorer students who are wary of taking on an even bigger debt burden, a leading education charity has warned. The Sutton Trust said good careers were formerly open to those with only A levels but now more are only open to those with degrees, and this could soon become the case for postgraduate qualifications. The London School of Economics and Surrey University carried out research for the trust which showed that in 1996 4 per cent of working Britons aged 26-60 had a postgraduate qualification, this was now 11 per cent. Those with a higher degree earned about £5,500 a year more on average. However there was a risk students from poorer backgrounds would baulk at taking on more loans after paying up to £9,000 a year for their first degrees.

Government denies humiliating U-turn over GCSE replacement7 February, 2013

The government insists its sudden abandonment of plans to scrap the GCSE, which was described by Labour as a humiliating U-turn, was just a "tweak" to its programme and that the bulk of changes to post-16 exams will still be delivered. Michael Gove was expected to formally announce to the Commons this week that he had dropped the idea of replacing GCSEs with an English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC), which had only been announced in September as one of his flagship policies for schools. The Liberal Democrats had opposed the plan, and concerns had been raised by the exams watchdog Ofqual, and the education select committee. Gove apparently still plans a major shake-up of GCSEs which will keep many of the EBC’s elements, including the focus on assessment by exams.

Ofsted hit by complaints after a fifth of college visits TES, 8 February 2013

The TES has reported that one in five college inspections last year resulted in an official complaint being lodged with Ofsted, highlighting the growing dissatisfaction in the sector with how its performance is judged. Out of the 45 FE colleges inspected in 2011-12, nine institutions formally complained. Two sixth form colleges also complained. Seven raised concerns about their overall judgement, and four complained about inspector “conduct, administration or information”. Ofsted did not uphold any of the complaints for the second year in a row, leading to the Association of Colleges saying it was concerned about the transparency of the complaints process.

Asylum seekers find little refuge in colleges TES, 8 February 2013

Refugees and asylum seekers are being wrongly turned away from some colleges because staff do not understand complex immigration rules, according to a report by the Refugee Council. The Council surveyed 70 colleges and carried out interviews with asylum seekers and refugees to conclude that colleges are often confused about asylum seekers' eligibility for courses: 24 per cent said they were not at all or only "a little" aware of the entitlements. The report also says that people are being turned away if they do not have the documentation usually required for enrolment, such as a passport, because staff are not familiar with refugee paperwork such as the Home Office's Standard Acknowledgement Letter. The charity wants there to be a simpler way for colleges and individuals to check eligibility for courses.