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Sector News, 04 - 08 April 2011

College principals fear EMA replacements will not be enough. Education Guardian, 05 April 2011.

Following on from the recent news about the government’s decision to increase the funding for the replacement of EMA to £180 million, the Guardian reports on the difficulties faced by five colleges. The colleges reporting are:

  • Middlesbrough, with 67% of its students entitled to EMA,
  • Central Sussex who were looking to support their students with travel bursaries,
  • Warwickshire and Hinckley, who believe that the colleges' inability to confirm bursaries will inevitably lead to a loss of students,
  • K College, (West Kent and South Kent College merger), who are trying to find ways to support their students in the face of the cut,
  • Ealing, Hammersmith and West London, who are in the process of setting up their own bursary scheme.

College lecturers refuse to pay for Institute for Learning membership. Education Guardian, 05 April 2011.

The Institute for Learning (IfL) caused a furor recently by saying that it intended to raise its fees from £30 to £68 annually. This has ensured that the simmering resentment by lecturers over what they see as an imposition has come to the fore. What followed has been a threatened boycott of IfL. Whilst the UCU has withdrawn its boycott it is adamant that its members will not pay the increase. However, other unions will continue to suggest that its members withdraw from contact with IfL and are telling the government that it is time to face up to the fact that is has failed.   IfL insists that its own surveys shows that the majority of its members are satisfied with how it operates and point out the fact that they have already cut staff from 52 to 38 and this along with a raise in fee levels is needed to make IfL sustainable.

Hefce fines 19 institutions for over-recruitment. THE, 07 April 2011.

Hefce is clawing back £8.1 million from 19 higher education institutions that over recruited students last year and they are imposing small fines on 33 further education colleges totalling  £500,000. Universities are facing the double issue of being penalised for charging too much and for over recruitment. “The rules on over-recruitment are set to be tightened even further when higher tuition fees are brought in from 2012, as the government strives to clamp down tightly on the cost to the Treasury of the new system and cut overall numbers by 10,000”.

Recruit more home staff to foreign hubs, report urges. THE, 07 April 2011.

A report by the UK Higher Education International and Europe Unit (IEU) and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education recommends that UK staff should teach on overseas UK university provision.  The research conducted by the organisations found that UK staff are reluctant to work overseas but, unless they do they risk damaging a university's reputation abroad. The concern expressed is that if the higher education institution does not have sufficient UK staff then it will be unable to develop an institutional culture similar to the one in the UK.

Coalition eyes auction plan to push down fees. THE, 05 April 2011.

The government is considering asking universities to make "sealed bids" for places on particular courses, making it clear what tuition fee that they would charge. The allocation would then go to the universities who are considered to represent the "best value" to the Treasury. 

Wrong kind of competitive tension threatens FE options. THE, 05 April 2011.

Concern is being expressed as a number of validating universities are puling out of their relationships with FE colleges. The Association of Colleges (AoC) has warned that the government’s desire to see more higher education delivered in FE is being undermined by cuts.

'Let students see external reports'. THE, 05 April 2011.

The External Examining Review Group (EERG) has said that externals' reports should be made "available in full to any student" who wishes to see the relevant document for his or her course. In 2009 the NUS requested that all external examiners' reports should be made available to students in order to increase the transparency of universities.  EERG has gone further by outlining proposed changes to the way external examiners are appointed.

Sector fears Tier 2 cap may deter overseas scholars. THE, 05 April 2011.

As well as being worried about how the new visa regulations will affect their overseas student numbers, universities are now faced with the real dilemma of being unable to recruit sufficient overseas staff. The new caps put universities in competition with other sectors against a limit of 20,700 tier 2 immigrants. 

Year-abroad language study at risk, expert warns. THE, 05 April 2011.

In 2012 the current funding arrangements for language students to study abroad come to an end. The one year overseas compulsory language components of modern language courses are said to be highly regarded by both students and employers. Higher education representatives believe that unless the funding regime is changed the future of such overseas experiences will be put at risk.

Hesa shows student body to be broader and stronger. THE, 05 April 2011.

Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) show that universities have improved on widening access and reducing drop out rates. Whilst universities such as Greenwich and Bradford have become highly inclusive institutions, the London School of Music and Cambridge continue to have less impact on under represented groups. The article contains a table showing the best and worst for retention and participation of under represented groups taken from the Hesa.

Poor's higher expectations linked to bottom line. THE, 07 April 2011.

A poll of school leavers, conducted for the National Union of Students and HSBC is reported to have found that those from lower socio-economic groups:

  • are the most likely to be motivated by earning potential,
  • the least likely to study degrees "for the experience",
  • are more likely to opt for institutions closer to home while those in higher socio-economic groups are more likely to opt for a university's academic reputation,
  • want more details on accommodation options and costs and sources of financial support,
  • are more concerned about finances
  • are more likely to live with their parents whilst studying,

When school leavers were asked about teaching and learning, approximately 50 per cent half said that they expect to produce written work that would be marked by an academic at least once a week, 75 per cent believed that "most of the time at university there will be a lecturer or tutor available that I can go to for advice or information"and just under 66 per cent expect to "see an academic tutor (or) lecturer regularly and really get to know them".

Features in this week’s THE.

Underlying disorders”, reports on Grant Thornton’s analysis of the higher education sector’s financial statements. Simon Baker (THE) investigates the sector’s ability to survive the cuts based on this analysis. The feature contains information concerning the financial health of all the sector’s universities.

See also "Amid the gloom, a little cheer", THE Leader.

 Listen to your sentences”, makes the point that eloquent communication is a skill that takes practice. Dale Salwak, professor of English at Citrus College Glendora, California, discusses the issues surrounding good communication for example, his English writing and reading is better because he has taught in the field and to write well we must first listen.

The Arts, THE, 07 April 2011.

 Siân Adiseshiah considers how sibling are presented on stage in “The dark side of the family”. Siân is senior lecturer in English at the University of Lincoln and centres the article around “In a Forest, Dark and Deep” being shown at the Vaudeville Theatre London.  Rites of passage” gives Professor Philip Dodd’s (University of Arts London) opinion of the film “Armadillo” a Danish documentary on the Afghan war. Gary Day’s TV slot, “The virtues of vice”. The programme studied is “Women in Love” which is adaptation of the DH Lawrence work of the same name and was shown on 31 March on BBC Four.

50,000 places slashed as teen numbers slump. TES, FE Focus, 08 April 2011.

The Department for Education (DoE) has told the Young People’s Learning Agency that its grant this year will see 50,000 places for teenagers removed after the DoE says that they missed their target last year by an average of nearly 6 per cent. The reasons for under-recruitment whilst at the same time sixth form numbers have increased are not clear.

‘Wasteful’ changes to FE contracts will go ahead. TES, FE Focus, 08 April 2011.

FE contract arrangements drawn up by the Department for Business are intended to reduce the costs of administration by reducing the number of contracts used. However, after objections a raft of exemptions has been set in place which many believe make the system so complex that it is likely to cost more to run.

They want to break free: the funding shackles that stifle FE. TES, FE Focus, 08 April 2011.

With universities racing to put up student fees to the £9,000 mark and ministers wanting to see more HE in FE one would think that FE has a golden opportunity to seize a gap in the market. Whilst FE generally welcomes the rhetoric of ministers there are a number of concerns not least of which is that universities control the HE that can be delivered and the number of students.  There are signs that in this time of financial stringency universities are withdrawing their students from FE. FE believes that by having awarding powers and direct grants they would eliminate a source of discomfort which they admit has more to do with the position that universities find themselves in than any desire to generally cut FE out of the loop.