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Sector News, 05 - 09 October 2009

Tories vow to create 10,000 more university places.  The Independent, 04 October 2009.

By introducing a new discount for graduates who re-paid their outstanding student loans ahead of schedule, the Tories hope to fund 10,000 extra university places. Needless to say the news has been welcomed by universities.  David Willetts, Shadow Secretary for Universities and Skills, believes that this is one of the steps necessary to combat growing unemployment amongst the young. 

The Times of the 05 October also covers the story under the headline “Tories pledge 10,000 extra university places”.

‘Entrepreneurs are not born, they are taught’Education Guardian, 06 October 2009.

Peter Jones of Dragons Den fame, explains why he has opened a business academy.   Peter is of the opinion that traditional business courses equip students with theoretical knowledge, which whilst important, is not everything that a business student needs to learn to be a success.   Entrepreneurship and enterprise are key skills which have not enjoyed the same status as theory.

Look! No fees. Education Guardian, 06 October 2009.

The International University of the Peopleopened last month.  It has one very big advantage - it charges no fees.  The university is an on line system designed to make it accessible to people who, for a variety of reasons, cannot go to a traditional university.   So far the university intake is small; it has 178 students from nearly 50 countries studying business administration and computer science.  However, one of the university’s directors, Peter Scott, believes that the concept is good and they will attract more students.

Lifelong Learners can work out at gym for the mind.  THE, 08 October 2009.

A “Gym for the mind” has been created by the University of Sunderland.   In an attempt to stem the loss of adult students caused by government regulation of funding, the university have set up a model that follows gym membership.  Under the title “Lifelong Learning’s Explore Membership Scheme”, members pay monthly fees amounting to £250 per year.  The membership allows them access to 600 hours of tuition, over 30 subjects with expert tutors.  Members do not have to enrol on a course but can use their membership to access the provision at any time in any subject.

Practical implications.  THE, 08 October 2009.

Opinion: Alan Ryan, visiting fellow in politics, Princeton University.

Alan compares the success rates of the various tiers of US universities and concludes that Lord Mandelson would do well to consider them in his investigation of higher education.  The question that is never asked, according to Alan Ryan, is “What should public funding be spent on and how much should be spent on what?”  He further argues that like many US lower tier institutions,  UK universities struggle with the mismatch between student needs and what these universities can deliver.  

World university rankings.  THE, 08 October 2009.

Of the ten top universities in the world, six are US universities and four UK universities.  Harvard comes out top with Cambridge second, and interestingly four of the top six universities are in the UK.  The full list can be found by following the link above and discussion under "World university rankings 2009".

The story is also covered by The Telegraph under the headline “Oxford beaten by UCL in league table”.

 The other major articles in this week's THE are:

"Microcosmographia Administrativa." Bruce Krajewski's look at HE administrators

"The 'Elephant' in the hotel room."   Deborah Bowman explains how her cello has restored her love of learning.

Oxford to defer use of A* grade for admissions.  The Independent, 08 October 2009.

There is disagreement between the UK's top universities over whether to use the new A* A level grading.  Oxford have said that it will not use the grading system in its applications process for the next two years, whilst Cambridge state that they will use the grade from next year.  Oxford’s argument is that many teachers have not had the chance to teach to the new qualification and hence accurately predicting results will be difficult.

Leading Article: Tory triumph.  The Independent, 08 October 2009.

This week the papers are full of reports from the Conservative Party conference.  On the education side, the Independent adds to its report of the 04 October (above).  The paper claims that the extra 10,000 university places “Is a smart move”.

Worldwide web of cyberstudents: Online study has become truly international.  The Independent, 08 October 2009.

More on the increasing demand for web based learning provision.  Whilst the Open University are clearly the largest provider of distance learning materials and have the largest number of distance learning students other higher education establishments are making increasing use of the ‘net’.  “The University of London, for example, has 45,000 students on 100 different distance learning study programmes, only 6,000 of whom are based in Britain”.  As well as catering for students who for a variety of reasons could not attend a university course, an attraction for web based learning is that tuition fess are less than campus-based students face.  

Education Bill’s ambitions face dilution as time runs out.  TES, 09 October 2009.

Currently, the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill is ‘bogged’ down in the House of Lords and time may run out for debate prior to the bill being given Royal Assent in November.   The Lords are unhappy about the content of parts of the bill and want other parts to be removed.  However, the Lord’s main complaint is that they have been given too little time to study a bill containing 250 clauses with 200 amendments.  David Laws Lib Dem education spokesman described the scrutiny of the bill as a disgrace after MPs were forced into an all night sitting to debate the remainder of the legislation.


Colleges could recruit from age 14.  TES, FE Focus, 09 October 2009.

Proposals announced by the Conservatives at their recent conference, would allow colleges to set up their own technical schools and compete with schools for pupils aged 14.  The Tories want technical schools in the largest urban areas, to allow FE colleges to take pupils from 14 years of age, to allow colleges to develop technical schools with support from universities and business, to fully fund 30,000 young apprenticeships per year and to ensure that apprenticeships include 50 days with an employer.


See also: Comment, “Tories set tone with remix of FE and schools”.


Scaling the wall of equality.  TES, FE Focus, 09 October 2009.

The Institute for Learning (ifL) wants to remove the barriers which prevent FE lecturers from teaching in schools.  It is an idea that has support from the Association of Schools and College Leaders whose leader Martin Ward says that “At a teacher and a leader level, we are very keen that it should be possible for staff to move to and fro”.  However, this response to the consultation requested by the Department for Children, Schools and Families will have many hurdles to cross if the Government is to accept the Association and IfL comments.