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Sector News, 03 - 07 January 2011

How can colleges survive the cuts?    Education Guardian, 4 January 2011.

Last year brought cuts of up to 25% and the end of the EMA (education maintenance allowance).  To add to FE’s woes, there was the threat of new immigration regulations which will seriously affect their international market in courses below degree level.  Unfortunately the sector’s adaptability, of which it is justifiably proud, seems to have created a sector without a single voice. There is the Association of Colleges, the 157 Group and representatives for both the tertiary and sixth form sector.  According to Ruth Sparkes, an education and PR consultant, the lack of a single voice makes it difficult for further education to fight the plethora of changes forced upon it by succeeding governments.  Unless colleges learn to collaborate across the sector and with schools and universities they are likely to lose their weaker brethren.

What is the best universities can hope for in 2011?  Education Guardian, 4 January 2011.

Also looking at the year ahead are a number of academics questioned by the Education Guardian:

  • Andrew Oswald, professor of behavioural science, Warwick business school, is hoping that the fees hike will ensure that British universities will want to recruit British students.
  • Sally Feldman, dean of media, arts and design, University of Westminster, does not understand why we have been thinking in terms of the less awful rather than the best.
  • Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, wants people to start asking the question what are universities for?  So far the arguments have been about economics rather than education.
  • Terry Hoad, president-elect of the University and College Union, wants to see the public fighting rather than accepting the realities of changes which could be disastrous and irreversible.
  • Pam Tatlow, chief executive, university thinktank million+, wants the government to change its mind on policies which will prevent overseas undergraduates from working.
  • Michael Chessum, co-founder of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, clearly wants to keep pressing the government to alleviate the fees crisis and remove the cuts to HE.
  • Richard Wiseman, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, is resigned to the fact that the government will not change its mind on its policies and feels that the best we can hope for is that if students have higher fees to pay they may take their education more seriously.

Tuition fees rise prompts rush of university applications.  Education Guardian, 4 January 2011.

Young people who were denied places at university last autumn have applied for degree courses starting in the coming academic year.  The effect has been to create a rise of 2.5% in pre-Christmas applications compared with the same period last year.  There was also an increase of 20 per cent in applications submitted in November along with a 5 per cent increase in October.  The increases are put down to students trying to beat the tuition fees rise next year.

High-speed rail skills link.  Education Guardian, 04 January 2011.

Large-scale rail infrastructure projects have not been a casualty of the Government’s spending review.  However, there are too few young railway engineers being trained and the country faces the prospect of having multi billion pound projects with too few people skilled enough to deliver them.  Last month, Vince Cable, the business secretary, gave government backing to a new National Skills Academy for Rail Engineering (Nsare), which will hope to lure more young people into the rail industry.

Poetic justice - arts backed by state and science by industry.  THE, 06 January 2011.

According to the head of the Institute of International Education, business should pay for degrees in subjects such as science and technology, with public funding directed towards the arts and humanities.  Dr Alan Goodman said a shift in attitude is required from business to redress the imbalance caused by the Government’s decision to cut the teaching grant ensuring that Arts and Humanities will be funded solely from the income received from students.  Dr Goodman argues that industry will want Science Maths and Engineering to be university priorities as they have most to gain from this move.  However, Dr Goodman also argues that universities should produce as many poets and artists as engineers. He believes that industry should subsidise STEM subjects and that the Government should concentrate on supporting the Arts.

College without leaving high school: a radical vision for higher delivery.  THE, 06 January 2011.

Denise Walker is a headteacher at a comprehensive school who is embarking on a project that has the potential to radically alter the provision of higher and further education in rural areas.  Under the plans Ms Walker hopes to offer part-time degree courses accredited by the University of London's external programme at her school near Thetford in Norfolk. “It is hoped that the scheme at Methwold High School, due to begin this September, can provide a viable alternative for school-leavers and mature students in an area where a university education is seen as out of reach, both culturally and financially”.

Features in this week’s THE:

Contravene or intervene?”; Matthew Reiz asks the question how far universities should go to defend freedom of speech in the light of extremism?

Reboot camp”; US graduate schools have a novel way of attracting experienced and aspiring journalists into their midst – they put them in a “boot camp” to help them survive in a media-led society where (USA) newspaper sales have nose dived.

The Arts. THE, 06 January 2011.

Gary Day comments upon a plethora of Christmas detective fiction under the headlineDaytime TV: Crime-time viewing”.   Power pointe presentation” is Duncan Wu’s take on the recently released “Black Swan”, the story of a ballerina losing touch with reality.  John Corner, visiting professor, the Institute of Communication Studies, University of Leeds, discusses our response to the arts (“Losing perspective”) and  “The Pick – Arias on the edge” discusses opera’s attempts to modernise its act.

Psychometrics for all trainees.  TES, 07 January 2011.

By 2012 all universities will be using psychometric tests designed to reveal whether applicants for teacher training have the right blend of empathy, communication and resilience required to become a teacher.  The tests have been developed at Exeter University and piloted at Edge Hill University, London.  Professor Debra Myhill, dean of the graduate school of education at Exeter believes that the tests will help to ‘weed out’ unsuitable applicants but that the tests alone must not be used as the only tool in deciding whether an applicant is a good candidate for training.

Anger as ministers move goalposts on new ‘English Bac’.  TES. 07 January 2011.

The English Baccalaureate will be awarded to pupils who achieve a grade C in English, maths, a humanity, a language and either two separate sciences or the combined double science exam at GCSE.  However, a decision by the Government to calculate the new Bac on exams that were taken last summer has angered school heads.  Heads say that the calculation is based on examinations that were taken two months before the measure was announced.

See also “Bac to bac problems with this qualification” – Comment by Brian Lightman, ASCL general secretary.

Funding for tutorials slashed in savings drive.  TES, FE Focus, 07 January 2011.

In its 16-19 funding statement, the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) has revealed that funding which covers tutorials and extra-curricular activities will be cut from 114 hours a year to just 30.  By the end of the spending review in 2015 16-18 funding will be cut by more than 10 per cent giving a reduction in funding of up to £643 million.

Training could ‘collapse’ if fees are forced on lecturers.  TES, FE Focus, 07 January 2011.

Under proposal put forward in the Browne Review of higher education, college teacher training students could be forced to pay the full costs of their training.  Currently training is largely funded by the Higher Education Funding Council.   

Ofsted scraps toolkit for tackling extremism.  TES, FE Focus, 07 January 2011.

The Learning Together to be Safe document, an Ofsted toolkit which advised FE colleges on how they should prevent extremism, is to be scrapped.