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Sector News, 06 - 10 September 2010

Farmers for a fortnight.  Education Guardian, 07 September 2010.          

Farming is losing people, especially the young.  Hence the reason for the Royal Agricultural College (RAC) to put on a fortnight open house for young people from the inner cities.  As a spokesperson for RAC states “We can no longer afford to be the domain of the double barrelled”.  Farming needs to attract young people from areas where it was once thought unlikely to find much interest.  It seems that the experience goes down well with the young people who attend and there are a number of them who see agriculture in some form as a career option.

International Baccalaureate gaining ground in state schools.  Education Guardian, 07 September 2010.

The International Baccalaureate (IB), is no longer the sole preserve of independent schools. There are now 149 state schools offering the courses, a small but growing number.  At Kinghurst Academy in Birmingham the IB is seen as a success despite the area having half the population living in social housing and 45 per cent of 16 to 19 year olds not being in education training or employment.  However, there still exists differing views on the usefulness of the IB, some feeling that it broadens the curriculum unlike A levels, whilst others consider the IB too hard for many students.  The steady growth in IB applications may well begin to slow down as funding issues take centre stage in school and colleges.   The Baccalaureate is expensive to run and is about to become more expensive as schools will soon be required to have an allocated consultant to guide students through the processes.

UK losing its allure...and ground to rivals.  THE, 09 September 2010.

The US has seen its share of the foreign student market drop from 26 per cent to 19 per cent since 2000, whilst the UK's market share fell by 2 percentage points in the same period.  At the same time Finland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Russia, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand have gained ground.  This is the finding from an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report which warns that the older industrialised countries such as those in Europe and the US are facing a major loss of income if the trend continues.  Even before the next round of cuts the UK's position (globally) is under threat.

Teaching comes first, says US author. THE, 09 September 2010.

Marc Prensky insists that traditional teaching methods are failing today's students. According to the author of “Teaching Digital Native”, in order to teach effectively, we need to use a different pedagogy than in the past. "Students should do the things that they do best, like finding things and using technology and creating, and teachers should do what they do best - asking questions, ensuring rigour and context". In a lecture at the Association of Learning and Technology conference in Nottingham this week, Professor Hall refuted the claim and asked academics to "put aside the lure of new technology and to go to the underlying issues", which centred on pedagogy, rather than technology.  Professor Hall believes that “Work would become impoverished and opportunities would be lost if technology were to become the sole focus of the academy”.  Whilst both sides agree the need to use new technology there is clearly some disagreement as to how much it should impinge on pedagogic methodology.

You want to go to the library at 3am? Britain's the place.  THE, 09 September 2010.

Although unusual, more British universities now keep their libraries open 24 hours a day than their counterparts elsewhere, a poll from the THE suggests. About 24 per cent of British universities open their libraries 24 hours a day compared with an average of 8.5 per cent of the 400 overseas universities surveyed.

In the mix: BAs benefit from the PhD example.  THE, 09 September 2010.

The US style of mixing students at different levels and on different courses in lectures, seems to be catching on in the UK.  In the US you can find PHD students, MAs and undergraduates in the same lecture. Whilst students at UK institutions often learn alongside their peers from different levels in lectures, smaller discussion classes tend to be separated by year group or degree.  Now, alongside the rise of undergraduate research schemes at universities such as Lincoln, Warwick and Cambridge there is a growing call for integration.

Researchers aim to capture a day in the teaching life.  THE, 09 September 2010.

The Mass Observation project was set up in 1937 and aimed to record the lives of ordinary people in Britain via a panel of volunteer observers.  The methodology has been adopted by a group of researchers from the University of Kent who are asking teachers to fully record one day of their working lives per month for a year. Their argument is that the standard method of using interviews and questionnaires puts people into a frame of mind which results in inaccurate data.  In addition, the university staff say that there is little on file about the everyday lives of a HE teacher.

Private practice.  THE, 09 September 2010.

Feature by Simon Baker  

BPP, a subsidiary of American giant Apollo, has obtained university status in the UK.  Whilst not surprised by the move, Simon Baker considers that the regulatory system will have to be overhauled if private for-profit organisations are to do well in the UK.  The adoption of BPP comes at a time when American senators are looking closely at the for-profit provision in the US, suspecting that students have been exploited by unscrupulous organisations.  Being able to offer a British degree is seen as an important step in establishing private provision, as far as BPP is concerned.   However, BPP are fully aware that they will be watched closely to ensure that they meet the standards of other institutions who rely on public funding.

See also Leader, “Concerns: public and private

Other features in this week’s THE:

"Toytown Utopias": Fred Inglis explains why he can always rely on the Clangers for a (Thomas More) vision of hope.

"For love or money":  Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College London discusses whether cash motivates academics to increase their research-paper output.

Vocational review ordered.  TES, 10 September 2010.

Professor Alison Wolf from King’s College London has been given the leading role in an inquiry into 14-19 vocational education.  Ministers are looking for ways to improve the organisation of vocational qualifications and make them more responsive to changes in employment.  Professor Wolf believes that an employer and industry driven vocational qualification would be better than a centrally governed one.

UK is bottom of developed world pile for adult learning.  TES, FE Focus, 10 September 2010.

OECD ( Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ) say that the average UK adult only spend 46 hours a year learning which is well below the global average of 80 and considerably below Korea’s 132 hours. However, in terms of participation the UK ranks fifth with 49 per cent of 25 to 64 year olds in learning.

‘Cheap, near and chosen for us’: why students select FE for HE. TES, FE Focus, 10 September 2010.

Of 800 students surveyed by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) only 5 per cent said that they had applied to university first.  For the majority the reasons given were, it was close to home, financially more viable, employers had chosen the course for them or that college was a familiar venue.  HE minister David Willetts has promoted colleges as an alternative to HE, especially for those who have failed to gain a place at university. There is however, a question mark over whether college is the right place for those who had not got a place at university, over half the respondents to the survey were mature students, many of the students were taking foundation degrees, business or vocational degrees, very few are taking the stock BA or BSc offered by universities.  FE HE is usually work related, even work based and often leads on from vocational qualifications.