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Sector News, 04 - 08 October 2010

Colleges protest over visa ‘misunderstanding’.   Education Guardian, 05 October 2010.

Colleges have expressed their fury over Immigration Minister Damian Green’s statement that overseas students applying for visas to attend FE colleges may be second-rate.  The implication is that those applying from overseas to study in FE are using their application as a cover for bogus visa applications.  Mr Green wants the UK to attract the brightest and the best students who he sees as deciding to study at university.  Colleges argue that Mr Green has no concept of what happens in an FE college.  The colleges say that they train technicians, which is what the developing world wants and they 'chase up' missing students, something HE does not do.  Colleges also point out to the minister that universities recruit heavily from colleges.

We can’t afford to lose 800,000 further education students.  Education Guardian, 05 October 2010.

Comment:  Martin Doel OBE, chief executive of the Association of Colleges.

Martin Doel is satisfied that the ministers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills understand the contribution colleges make to the economy.  He is also heartened by Michael Gove’s (Department for Education) assessment of the value of vocational learning.  Whilst the government's early actions have matched their promise of fair funding and removal of bureaucracy he is still concerned that FE will be hit hard in the spending review. Having already taken a cut of 14 per cent in their adult budgets, colleges are expecting a further 15 per cent cut followed by a rise in cuts of up to 40 per cent in four years.

Fortune will favour the brave.  THE, 07 October 2010.

Last week the TES focused on the Spending Review and what affect it might have on the education sector.  This week’s THE focuses on a similar theme but concerned with HE.  The leader argues that universities lack a clear mission, something they must have if they are to compete globally and handle what is bound to become a difficult financial period for HE.  Whilst the paper comments that this could be a time of great opportunity for universities, they must stop spreading their efforts too thinly.

Free market selection: find a niche or go extinct.  THE, 07 October 2010.

This is the major article introduced by this week’s leader (above). Simon Walker reports on Julian Beer’s comments that universities must find a distinctive mission, or disappear.  Professor Beer accuses universities of trying to cover too many bases.  Whilst the simple desire to achieve excellence in teaching and research might sound laudable it does not help an institution to discover its niche in the market.   Unless they do so, Professor Beer says, it is inevitable that about a quarter of the sector will struggle to survive.  Professor Julian Beer is a pro-vice chancellor at the University of Plymouth.

See also: Financial forecasts unsettled by peer’s review

Critical balance: the enterprising academy must retain its values.  THE, 07 October 2010.

Opinion Mike Boxall and Paul Woodgates PA Consulting Group.

Yet another plea for universities to be more focused on what they wish to achieve.  Mike Boxall and Paul Woodgates believe that it is not good enough for universities to simply decide to increase international recruitment or services to business.  Universities must change their working methods and culture if they are to succeed in the future.  They discuss the financial systems used by universities, commenting that the system owes more to the Civil Service than to competitive enterprise.   In a Kennedy-like statement (“ Ask not what America can do for you...”) they want universities to break out of the mindset that asks “Who will pay for us to continue doing the excellent things we do?” and change it to “How can our special capabilities be used to create value for others and thereby sustain our mission?”.

Visa stranglehold chokes recruitment.  THE, 07 October 2010.

As with FE, HE is disturbed by the government’s immigration cap.  Worries over how it will affect recruitment are at the forefront of their concerns but universities also fear for the loss of good researchers from abroad.

NHS streamlining could seriously damage academy’s financial health. THE, 07 October 2010.

Whilst the government have expressed the desire to put NHS financing at the sharp end of the business (i.e. with the doctors), the loss of the strategic health authorities may have an adverse effect on medical training.  Currently the strategic health authorities arrange contracts with universities whereby nurses, midwifes and other professionals obtain their training places.  The government does not appear to have thought about this as an issue and so far has no plans to ensure that somebody has responsibility for this side of the business.

Feature in this week’s THE:

Ahead of the curve: Zoë Corbyn looks at the psychology of science’s fight for acceptance.

Disciplines of the world, unite  Deidre N. McCloskey, University of Illinois, argues for a new field that combines the arts and sciences.

The Culture – Arts THE, 07 October 2010.

This week the THE has an Arts section which includes the following stories:

Thinking, inside the box” in which the THE look at BBC Four’s new season.   The article looks at “North on a plate”, by Andrew Hussey University of London Institute in Paris, which is a programme about the roots of dishes in the North West of England.  Richard Klein, BBC Four’s controller says that he is looking for new ideas and that the academy is often where these are found.   Programmes mentioned in the article are "Greek - Myths Tales of Travelling Heroes”, “Treasures of the Anglo-Saxons”; “The Art of Cornwall” and "The Art of Germany“. In addition Klein gives advice to academics wanting to put programmes on BBC Four.

Mac the knife”: a new film about armed pensioners battling injustice. Duncan Wu, professor of English at Georgetown University, provides an overview.

Creative impulses”:  Gary Day, principal lecturer in English at De Montfort University, considers the unconventional private lives of artists and the beauty the artists create.

IB lifted exam marking guides from Wikipedia.  TES, 08 October, 2010.

Following revelations that the head of the International Baccalaureate (IB) had used someone else’s work and passed it off as is own (TES 17 Sept. 2010) the IB has now found itself in further hot water as it has emerged that it has plagiarised large chunks of its marking guide from Wikipedia.  The model answers were for a history paper.  Wikipedia is an open system in which anyone can place information, some of its information is unattributed and some is considered incorrect.  The revelation is seen as a blow to the IB's credibility.

Vocational grade values too high, academy heads admit.  TES, 08 October 2010.

Some vocational qualifications are counted as equivalent to four good GCSEs. However,  following criticism that they carry too much weight and are used to boost schools' league table rankings, Mike Butler (Independent Academies Association (IAA)) admits that vocational qualifications need to be reviewed.

Adult A-level equivalents could lose public funding. TES, FE Focus, 08 October 2010.

Vince Cable is understood to have told Lib Dems that pressure on adult skills cash is likely to lead to the ending of public funding for A-level equivalent qualifications for adults.   Instead of public funding it is thought that the minister might introduce a university-type loans system for those taking a first level three course.

See also Women’s Institute wades in to save adult education. The WI has joined the campaign to save adult education in the face of possibly swingeing cuts. Under the headline Will safeguard for adults be all-inclusive Alan Tuckett, chair of Niace, wonders if the proposal for £100 million for additional adult learning will shift the balance to people and whether adults will really be able to afford education.

Willetts damns Labour’s apprenticeships record. TES, FE Focus, 08 October 2010.

David Willetts (Business, Information and Skills) has accused Labour of downgrading apprenticeships.  He said that youth unemployment had risen, despite Labour increasing the number of apprenticeships, because employers had been too tied up in red tape.   Mr Willetts believes that apprentices should have status and apprenticeships should be providing proper training with qualifications such as BTEC, HNC, HND and City & Guilds.  He added that further courses should increasingly become shorter, part time and work related.

Providers drive skills training not employers, says report.  TES, FE Focus, 08 October 2010.

An Ofsted report looking at good practice in involving employers in work related training has said that businesses rarely initiate publicly funded training.  Ofsted express the view that making employer demand drive publicly funded skill training is doomed to failure.  Colleges and training providers have to make the first move.

Lecturers complain of repetitious qualifications. TES, FE Focus, 08 October 2010.

Lecturers are complaining that they have to repeat too much work to gain higher level qualifications.  Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK), has launched a three-year review in which it has said that changes may well be made to the system but that it would evolutionary rather than revolutionary.