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Sector News, 05 - 09 July 2010

AS-levels to be scrapped as part of government's 'deep thought' revival. Education Guardian (originally on Sunday 04 July).

The education secretary Michael Gove has said he wants to see A-levels become more academically rigorous and he wishes to scrap AS levels. This would go some way to satisfying university concerns that the current system in which courses are broken up into units with their own exams fails to prepare students for the demands of a degree.  Gove is keen to see the introduction of the Cambridge Pre-U and has asked universities to design new A-levels modelled on this system.

Graduates warned of record 70 applicants for every job.  Education Guardian, 06 July 2010.

Companies are cutting back on recruitment with graduate jobs expected to fall by about 7 per cent.  Adding to graduate woes are reports that applicants for each job have surged to nearly 70.  Employers are seriously considering rejecting anyone with less than a 2:1 during their first look at applications.  With the number of applicants for university places expected to continue to rise the outlook looks bleak for many.

Employers have a responsibility to develop workers' skills.  Education Guardian, 06 July 2010.

Opinion: Norman Pickavance, group human resources director, Wm Morrison Supermarkets.

According to Norman Pickavance, the push to produce graduates has done nothing to prepare young people, whether graduates or not, for the world of work.  He fears that the demand for qualifications has overridden the need to create a workforce in tune with what industry requires.  Whilst accepting that qualifications matter he considers that they do not reflect the needs of industry sufficiently well and wants employers to have more autonomy in designing their own training programmes.

Gardening is cool among young people.  Education Guardian, 06 July 2010

Horticulture ‘is in’ with the young judging by how many are seeking to take horticultural courses.   Lantra, the sector skills council for environmental and land based trades, has reported a 52 per cent leap in searches for horticultural courses, compared with the same time last year.

Mass destabilisation: mission groups detail dangers of cash following policy objectives.  THE, 08 July 2010.

Both the Million+ and the 1994 Group of smaller research intensive institutions have warned against adopting a policy of funding universities by how well they meet strategic objectives.  The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), in its consultation with the sector, has suggested a reduction in funding to courses that are not compatible with policy objectives along with cutting funding for three-year degrees.  Additionally, Hefce has proposed a ‘strategic margin’ pot of funding to foster change.

STEM focus is an economic own goal, LSE head warns.  THE, 08 July 2010.

The Director of the London School of Economics has warned of humanities courses facing a future without students if the Government’s demand for STEM subjects is not checked.   Howard Davies says that the focus on STEM subjects was irrational when the market was demanding graduates in areas such as finance, media and law.  Adding to his point, Mr Davies also warns that as the numbers of good English students drop because of restrictions in grants, universities will look more and more to overseas students to make ends meet.  In the LSE more than 50 per cent of the student body is already made up of foreign students.

Teaching aid aims to help lift cultural barriers.  THE, 08 July 2010.

As the number of foreign students grows, the dynamics of the classroom change.  Accepting this as a fact, “Teaching International Students”, a collaborative project between the Higher Education Academy and the UK Council for International Student Affairs, is an attempt to raise teaching staff awareness of the needs of foreign students.

How a pair of sunglasses mortified gender students.  THE, 08 July 2010.

The 13th biennial international “Writing Development in Higher Education” conference was opened last week by Malcolm Giles, vice chancellor of London Metropolitan University.  In his opening speech, Malcolm Giles made it clear that writing skills were highly prized by employers and without good writing skills students are severely disadvantaged.  Speakers explored various ways of improving student’s essay writing techniques and how to remove exam phobia.  One example given was when students were asked to speculate about a huge pair of black sunglasses, the students deciding that they could not possibly be worn by a male.  They were horrified to find out that they had been policing gender by dress.

Features in this week’s THE:

Measured ad found wanting more” and Handle with care”, a study of the increasing appetite for international comparisons of universities, Helen Hazelkorn, head of the Higher Education Policy Research Unit.  See also leader:  “Some very necessary measures”.

The Doctor will save you now”, David Sheff takes a trip on board the Tardis arguing that the Doctor’s intelligent and compassionate approach to a crisis is a welcome relief.

The UK plc roadshow”, a look at the overseas foreign student recruitment fairs and the lives of those involved.

Gove’s A-level reforms? We’ll stick with modules, says Harrow Head.  TES, 09 July 2010.

Barnaby Lenon, head of Harrow School, has become one of the first high profile heads to come out against the education secretary’s plan to opt for more traditional linear A- levels.  Mr Gove’s plan is to ask universities to draft new A-levels which are more academic and tested in the hopes that schools will come round to preferring these to the existing schemes.  However, the education secretary’s plan could fail if schools in general continue using the current A-level system which is popular with parents and pupils.  Janet Graham, director of Supporting Professionalism in Admissions Programme, says that most universities are quite happy with the A-levels as they are currently operating.

‘Pay up or lose public funding’.  TES, FE Focus, 09 July 2010.

A review of fees in further education has made the statement that public funding for adult education should be withheld if equal investment from individuals and businesses is not obtained.  The review, led by the former Learning and Skills Council chair Chris Banks, has made seven key points:

·         Government funding should match contributions from individuals and businesses, up to a maximum limit.

·         Providers should publish the total course cost and the fee contribution expected.

·         More public funding should be diverted into financial support, particularly career development loans.

·         “In-kind” contributions from employers should not be counted, only cash.

·         Government should make online learning accounts a priority.

·         The criteria for fully-funded courses should be reviewed to make sure those most in need get help.

·         Government should monitor the implementation of change to ensure it protects participation, especially among vulnerable groups.

Follow skills route, not A-levels, colleges urged.  TES, FE Focus, 09 July 2010.

Ioan Morgan, principal of Warwickshire College, has come out in favour of FE colleges dropping their A-level provision and concentrating on vocational routes.  His comments came as a panellist at the Leaning and Skills Network annual Big Debate.  It is Ioan Morgan’s opinion that in times of economic austerity colleges need to look to their core provision.

UCAS to review higher education entry tariff.  TES, FE Focus, 09 July 2010.

A review announced last week by UCAS, is expected to conclude that a new tariff system for application to universities is required.  UCAS comments that “the changing qualifications landscape – including the development of more vocational and occupational qualifications questions the appropriateness of the existing tariff”.

Is FE’s training overhaul ‘a breath of fresh air’ or a regime in need of reform?  TES, FE Focus, 09 July 2010.

Despite on-going changes to FE teacher training since 2001 their are too many in FE who do not understand the new qualifications.  New entrants are expected to begin with Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector before moving on to CTLLS and DTLLS, known as petals, kettles and dettles. The qualifications have not brought about the parity with schools training that many in FE had hoped for and the qualifications have acted as an obstacle for those wishing to move elsewhere.  Nevertheless, there are stories of success as well as disenchantment in this article.