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Sector News, 6-10 June 2011

Student numbers could be cut to cover spiralling cost of loans The Guardian, Tuesday 7 June 2011

Government ministers underestimated how many universities would charge £9,000 fees and may now introduce quotas on numbers to avoid facing a huge bill to fund student loans. The cost of funding the interest-free student loans is “several hundred million pounds” higher than anticipated, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The true extent of the problem will not be known until students turn up for freshers’ week in 2012. Cutting student numbers below the current cap is likely to be very unpopular after several years of increasing demand and a row over the competition for university places. So far 105 universities have said what fees they will charge, with the average of £8,765; the government had modelled its plans on an average of £7,500.

AC Grayling's private university accused of copying syllabuses, Monday 6 June 2011

There is controversy over the private college the New College of the Humanities, whose students will pay £18,000 a year, but which is offering courses which are available at the University of London for half the price. The college is founded by philosopher AC Grayling and staffed by celebrity professors. Academics have complained that syllabuses listed on the New College website appeared to have been copied from the University of London’s own webpage. Grayling has said that New College students would receive University of London degrees, but the university has since made clear there is "no formal agreement between the University of London and the NCH concerning academic matters".

Universities 'complacent' over Islamic extremism, warns Theresa May, Monday 6 June 2011

Home Secretary Theresa May said in an interview in the Daily Telegraph, reported on uk that that universities had been complacent in tacking radicalisation and Islamic extremism on campus. The remarks come before the publication of the government's revised Prevent strategy, which was originally launched in 2007 to stop the growth of homegrown terrorism. The Guardian also reported that the Daily Mail said the government had identified 40 English universities where there could be a "particular risk" of radicalisation or recruitment on campus. It is understood the document also raises concerns over the Federation of Student Islamic Societies and what is seen as an insufficient willingness to tackle extremism. The report will also name the 25 boroughs most at risk from Islamist extremism, including areas of London, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and Manchester, it was reported.

Prison education is ripe for reform The Guardian, Tuesday 7 June 2011

Carolina Bracken, a criminal justice research fellow at Civitas thinktank, looks at the latest government report on prison education, which recognises that employaility is the key to rehabilitation. She says in many ways it has great potential but there are three main difficulties. She says numerous promises in the report have been made and broken before.

The Green League university tables The Guardian, Tuesday 7 June 2011

Some new university rankings have been produced which order institutions according to what they are doing to reduce their impact on the environment. An article focuses on the top-of-the-league Nottingham Trent University which features things such as “intelligent lift” which sends the one nearest to minimise the distance the lift travel, and other innovations such as Victorian buildings modernised to make best use of natural light, bicycles that can be hired for just £35 a year, windows that open and close automatically depending on the temperature inside, and a sedum roof which acts as a natural insulator. Coventry University comes 41st in the table, and the University of Warwick 100th out of 138 which were ranked. The full table can be seen here.

Furore over Durham's tobacco funding for Afghan scholarship The Guardian, Tuesday 7 June 2011

There is concern about funding from British American Tobacco (BAT) being used to fund postgraduate scholarships for female students from Afghanistan at Durham University. The successful chancellor’s appeal to fund the places has raised more than £600,000 and there are already two women from Kabul University enrolled, but students, academics, charities and alumni are concerned the £125,000 from BAT will put the university’s reputation at risk and they are asking the university to send the cash back. The university says the cash was accepted “following careful consideration by the university executive committee in line with its gift-acceptance policy, which is approved by university council”.

Private challenge a major influence on London Met fees Times Higher Education, 9 June 2011

London Metropolitan University was among the institutions to set the lowest tuition fees in the sector because of private competition, vice chancellor Malcolm Gillies has said, and he predicts other institutions will soon follow its lead with “affordable” charges. He has been criticised by some staff and students for setting a range of fees from £4,500 up for 2012-13 while cutting the course offerings by 70 per cent. Mr Gillies said the university faced intense private competition in the capital, with 12 business schools within a mile of the university, and a large working class student base.

Export only: fears grow for future of postgrad study Times Higher Education, 9 June 2011

Nigel Carrington, rector of the University of the Arts London, has warned that cuts to public funding and increased tuition fees for home students meant there was a risk that his university could soon be educating "almost exclusively" overseas students at the postgraduate level. It could mean that the country will be starving itself of homegrown talent if the government does not address the issue of postgraduate education, he said.

Employers Pensions Forum seeks more public cash Times Higher Education, 9 June 2011

A Freedom of Information Act request to Hefce has revealed that the Employers Pensions Forum (EPF) has asked to increase its public funding to more than £700,000 with total backing coming to £1.3 million. The EPF drew up the successful plans to reduce academic pensions in the Universities Superannuation Scheme. It has already been awarded £627,000 by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The University and College Union, whose proposals for the USS lost out to those of the EPF, has previously complained that it is unfair to channel public funding into an employers' body. Hefce says the body’s “legitimate interest is in a sustainable workforce and higher education sector".

UK offers openness and quality assurance, but access remains a problem Times Higher Education, 9 June 2011

An analysis that attempts to measure and rank aspects of national higher education systems suggests that the UK academy is one of the most "open" in the world and has among the best quality assurance, but is also one of the least equal. The findings of the British Council's International Education Index were presented last week at the Nafsa Association of International Educators conference in Vancouver. It looks at higher education policies in 22 countries and scores nations across several criteria. France tops the table for openness, which looks at international strategies, visa and migration policies, followed by the UK, Australia and the Netherlands. Australia is first for quality assurance and degree recognition”, followed by Germany and the UK, but for “access and equity” the UK came 17th out of 22.


Are friends electric? Times Higher Education, 9 June 2011

Kathleen Richardson looks at the history and development of robots and evaluates the possibilities for the future – such as whether they could care for our ageing populations as the proportion of young people on the planet reduces. She also explores whether machines genuinely become social beings.

Unions reach deal over IfL fees FE Focus, Times Educational Supplement, 10 June 2011

Unions have reached a deal with the Institute for Learning (IfL) that involves capping the compulsory membership fees at £38 a year for the next two years. It marks the end of several weeks of talks started by FE minister John Hayes who wanted to prevent a boycott of the IfL following a revolt by lecturers who were being forced to pay for mandatory membership for the first time this year. Under the deal that has been reached the fee could rise again in 2013 but the IfL has agreed it will not go higher than the £68 it had proposed earlier. There are also agreements on lower fees for FE teachers earning less than £16,000 a year, and an agreement to review the IfL’s work on CPD to ensure it is relevant.

College owns up to inflating success rates FE Focus, Times Educational Supplement, 10 June 2011

Croydon College has admitted it may have exaggerated success rates by up to 10 per cent despite warnings from the FE funding body about institutions manipulating results data. It is the first college to own up to inflating its success rates since the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) started a crackdown on colleges which failed to report details of unsuccessful students to boost results and funding. The issue came to light earlier this year when new principal Frances Wadsworth took over. Former principal Mariane Cavalli, now heading Warwickshire College, said she had only been made aware of an investigation into functional skills success rates, and said the data issues would not have affected the college’s inspection in 2009, in which it was rated good.

Colleges told to do more to tackle extremism FE Focus, Times Educational Supplement, 10 June 2011

Colleges should be a priority for anti-terror work and they have not taken enough action to address the risk of violent extremism spreading on campus, the Home Office has said. The government’s updated Prevent strategy criticised the progress made in colleges and said less had been done than in universities. It said there may be similar risks in both; of people convicted of Al Qaeda-related terrorist offences in the UK, 15 per cent had vocational or FE qualifications and 30 per cent had attended university. About 10 per cent were students at the time they were charged. Research by the Institute of Community Cohesion quoted in the report found that 40 per cent of colleges engaged with police on extremism, compared with 45 per cent of universities. The FE Focus Editorial – Colleges are no place for fantatics – also looks at this subject.