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Sector news, 31 October - 4 November

August babies are less likely to go on to top universities, says study The Guardian, 1 November 2011

Researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies have found that children born in August who are the youngest in each school year are less likely to go on to study at top universities than their older classmates. The think tank say they underperform in school throughout their working lives. They studied three data sets of the records of 48,500 teenagers in England, and found those born in August were 20 per cent less likely than those born 11 months earlier in September to go to Russell Group universities, and more likely to study vocational courses instead.


Open days put universities under the microscope The Guardian, 31 October 2011

The Guardian looks at the growing importance of university open days where students, faced with the increase in tuition fees, will be keener to see what they will be getting for their money. Universities have reported a big increase in the number of prospective students attending open days, and of parents accompanying their children. Some institutions have had a 75 per cent rise in numbers attending. Parents are asking more questions about bursaries and scholarships, what extras the fees will include and the university’s record on graduate employment.


Are Britain's art schools in crisis, as fees stifle a creative generation? The Observer, 30 October 2011

UCAS figures show a 27 per cent decline in applications for creative art and design courses for 2012 compared with last year, and there are fears that Britain’s creative record could be at risk, and that campuses will lose out on talented but less well-off students.


Sector opposes plans for compulsory teacher training Times Higher, 3 November 2011

The Higher Education Academy’s proposal for standardised teacher training for all new academics has been overwhelmingly rejected. The teaching and learning organisation launched a consultation on its career development scheme, the UK Professional Standards Framework, in November last year. It “strongly recommended” all new academic staff were required to take an HEA-accredited teaching scheme such as the postgraduate certificate in higher education. It also proposed training for postgraduates who teach and opportunities for existing staff. But the HEA revealed this week that more than 70 per cent of respondents oppose compulsory discipline-based teaching qualifications. They also rejected mandatory teaching observations and mentor schemes. The revised professional standards framework makes no mention of obligatory teacher training.


'Tension, no mismatch' between visa casualties and coalition reforms Times Higher, 3 November 2011

Nearly 500 private colleges have been banned from recruiting abroad, but the Home Office is not “rubbing its hands with glee” the Times Higher reported. Jeremy Oppenheim, who is in charge of the student visa regime at the UK Border Agency, seemed to accept that policies affecting small private colleges might create tension with reforms to higher education which are meant to encourage the commercial sector to flourish. So far 250 colleges have been banned from teaching non-EU students after failing to apply for highly trusted sponsor (HTS) status, which institutions recruiting internationally must have from next April. Another 172 cannot recruit new overseas students after they applied for HTS status but now “educational oversight”, a new system of accreditation where colleges' standards will be audited by bodies including the Quality Assurance Agency and the Independent Schools Inspectorate. Another 51 colleges had their licenses revoked after a spike on offers shortly after the government said tighter English language requirements would be introduced.


Postgraduate premium shows significant rise Times Higher, 3 November 2011

The differential between the average wage earned by UK workers with a postgraduate degree and those with an undergraduate degree rose by 6 per cent in 1996 to 13 per cent in 2009. The figures were revealed in a discussion paper for the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic performance. In the UK the differential rose from 14 per cent in 1980 to just over 30 per cent in 2009.


No jobs, so get them on courses Times Higher, 3 November 2011

A former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee says the government should create 100,000 extra university places next year to address a “crisis” in the youth labour market. David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College in the US and the University of Stirling, called for one-off extra recruitment in 2012-13, which would equate to a 27 per cent rise in first year places, to cut competition for jobs and let students wait out the possible recession.


Ministers unrepentant over huge disparities in bursaries TES, 4 November 2011

Answers to a Commons education select committee report on 16-19 participation show that ministers are unrepentant about the wide disparity between bursaries in different parts of the country, with 23,000 students in 32 local authority areas finding the figure of £800 advertised for every student eligible for free school meals did not turn out to be correct. The committee said that young people’s needs were not uniform across the country and depended on local and individual circumstances.


Critics claim apprentice boom neglects young jobless TES, 4 November 2011

Figures out last week showed a growth of 58 per cent in the number of apprentices in the UK in a year, but there are doubts about whether the rapid expansion has focused too heavily on adults and done little to help youth unemployment. There have been 11,000 new apprenticeships created in the 16-19 age bracket than the previous year, but 126,000 extra in the over 25 age range. That figure has gone up to 175,000, a rise of 250 per cent. Critics have said the increase if fuelled by apprenticeships which are little more than on-the-job training for people already in work.