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Sector News, 02 - 06 February

Universities don’t like common people, do they?  Education Guardian, 03 February 2009.

Caci, a market analyst company, has just completed a survey for the Education Guardian.  Whilst the Guardian’s report discusses Bristol in particular, Caci’s findings suggest that many universities still do not attract students from low-socio-economic backgrounds.  Indeed Bristol, Caci says, have only 3% of their students from the bottom quarter of the UK’s least affluent homes.  In “Posher than John Lewis”, the Guardian comments that 55% of students at Warwick, Bristol and Queen’s Belfast come from the wealthiest groups.  Bolton, which has a large proportion of local students, paints a different picture (“Bristol v Bolton: opposite ends of the prosperity ladder”).

The Independent also reports on the above findings in "Half of top universities' students' from better off families'". The Independent makes a political point commenting on the Government spending to improve opportunities for low socio-economic groups.

Learning to read isn’t a skill-it’s the doorway to life.  Education Guardian, 03 February 2009. Comment, Gail Rebuck, Chairman and CEO of the Random House Group.

In response to the statements made at last week’s public accounts committee that 17.8 million over-18s have poor levels of literacy, Gail points out that the £5 bn spent by the Government on Basic Skills has not been wasted.  The Skills for Life target of improving the skills of 2.25 million adults by 2010 was reached two years early.  Gail also quotes the results of the three years of the Quick Read campaign.  The results were exemplary, with 90% of adults stating that improving their reading had made them feel better about themselves.

Business to teach academics to lead.  THE, 05 February 2009

A year long leadership programme called Aspire has been launched by the Institute of Education.  University staff, of all levels, will be paired up with private-sector bosses in an attempt to boost leadership skills. David Lammy, Higher Education Minister, said at the launch that he does hold the view that leaders are born rather than made.  Aspire will attempt to give academics experience of leadership within a commercial setting.

Post-92s say that part-time enrolments are falling because of unfair policy.  THE, 05 February 2009.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency have produced figures which show part-time enrolments have fallen by 3%.  Representatives of the post 92 universities have blamed this decline on the Government’s decision to exclude part-time students from the loan and grant support package.

Science boost for alternative medicine BScs.  THE, 05 February 2009.

Further to what is now becoming a long running wrangle over complementary medicine courses, the University of Westminster is to overhaul its complementary and alternative medicine BSc course.  The University will make the course more scientific and improve the balance between critical scholarly activity and the courses vocational aspects.

MPs versus v-cs: university heavyweights parry blows.  THE, 05 February 2009.

This article, reports on the meeting between four university vice-chancellors and a committee of MPs on the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee.  Despite all attempts to score points, the MPs failed to break the resistance of the university representatives who cited the latest NUS survey which showed high levels of satisfaction amongst students.

Dash for cash will encourage FE colleges to take university route.  THE, 05 February 2009.

Ms Bacon, principal of St, Helen’s College, reported to a commons select committee that colleges would seek to change their status to university colleges primarily through a drive to seek greater funding.  

‘HE in FE’ holds its own in National Student Survey.  THE, 05 February 2009.

An analysis of the 2008 National Union of Student Survey has shown that students studying higher education in further education colleges are more satisfied with some aspects of their experience than their university counterparts.  “Although further education colleges do not score as well on “intellectual stimulation”, the organisation of courses and learning resources, David Collins, president of the Association of Colleges, said that the results show that higher education was as good in colleges as it was in universities”, the THE reports.

Lib Dems execute policy U-turn by pledging to axe academies.  TES, 06 February 2009.

The Lib Dems have issued a policy statement containing the following proposals:

  • a pupil premium that would raise  2.5bn to help the 1 million most disadvantaged children and to cut class sizes for 5-7 year olds to around 15,
  • scrap 600-page national curriculum and replace it with a slimmer minimum entitlement of around 20 pages,
  • retain key stage 2 but produce slimmer version of national testing,
  • a new general diploma incorporating GCSEs, A levels and vocational qualifications,
  • replace Government’s GCSE target with average points system,
  • give heads more freedom on pay to help them recruit.

(Copied from TES)

Polytechnic revival is planned.  TES, FE Focus, 06 February 2009.

More on FE colleges desire to become HE institutions (see “Dash for cash [..]” THE 05 Feb.)

David Collins, president of the Association of Colleges has set out details of what is to be known as bachelor of vocational studies degree.  If the Association gets its way then it could see the effective revival of polytechnics by 2012.  Colleges believe that the course would be attractive to students who cannot afford the high costs of HE.

See also “Vocational degree harks back to heyday”.

c.  TES, FE Focus, 06 February 2009.

The Institute for Learning (IfL) has, this week, published a five-plan which will, it hopes, raise the status of FE lecturers, trainers and assessors.  Its intention is to consolidate its credentials as a professional member body in the way the British Medical Council and the Law Society represent doctors and lawyers.   The IfL has five core values, professionalism, development, autonomy, integrity and equality.   The article also gives brief details of the three priorities which guide a five year plan, namely, benefits, professional status and collective voice.