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Sector News, 07 - 11 June 2010

University guide 2011.  Education Guardian, 08 June 2010.

The Education Guardian this week is almost totally devoted to application for university.  Under the above headline the paper gives advice to would-be entrants saying that despite the cut in student numbers there are still lots of places available for those who take the trouble to look.  On Wednesday 09 June there will be an online service where queries can be posted, the web site being

The top universities are rated according to satisfaction (University league tables) where Oxford and Cambridge rate the most highly and East London and London Met come in at 117 and 118 respectively. 

 The timetable for application is published, see "Timetable for applying to uiniversity"

Universities that put students first come top.  Education Guardian, 08 June 2010.

The courses that do well in the Guardian’s subject tables appear to be those which place importance on customer relations.  For example the staff of the Chemistry Department at the University of Southampton, which tops the table, place great emphasis on an open door policy with students.  There are other examples of success stories where departments have improved the quality and timing of feedback to essays and others who have re-shaped their curriculum to bring them more in line with student expectations.  For a listing see subject tables.

FE colleges win students from universities.  Education Guardian, 08 June 2010.

This is a story about cost cutting. Students who take their degrees at colleges tend not to create as large a debt as their counterparts at university.  Sarah Holmes features in the article a student who has achieved a BA (Hons) in business administration at St. Helens College.  She reports her debt at £13,500, whilst the average for a university student is £23,000.  A further advantage cited for taking a degree at a local college is that if you stay at home it becomes easier to take on a part-time job.

The Cinderella students.  THE, 10 June 2010.

Over half a million part-time students make up almost 40 per cent of the UK’s student population.   However, as large as these statistics appear, they cannot hide the fact that part-time university students have long been left on the sidelines when it comes to support.   Whilst the Labour party during its reign did give a means-tested fee grant of up to £1,230 and help with study costs of up to £265, the recommendations of such auspicious people as Leitch and Dearing have not been adopted.   In addition, last autumn the Labour party’s document “Higher Ambitions” stated that “The focus will [.] be on a greater diversity of models: part time, work based [...]”.   Unfortunately the reality lags behind the rhetoric.  Part-time students, for example, cannot get loans.   Last summer, Policy Exchange, a think-tank with links to the Conservative Party, outlined a model that would provide 60,000 more part-time students with financial support.  Recently a joint submission to the Browne review by the Open University and Birbeck suggested that those studying more than 30 to 50 per cent of a full-time course should be eligible for grants or loans towards tuition fees.  There is hope that the Conservative-Liberal coalition can correct the mistakes of the past.

See also Leader: “Support for second chances” and “Report finds too little funding for part-time study”.

Willetts floats idea of separating teaching and examining.  THE, 10 June 2010.

David Willetts wants to separate teaching and examination so that HE is more in line with schools and colleges.  He believes that by doing this it would produce a more competitive system and create a situation where teaching standards would be driven up.

Careers-guidance statements demanded as Willets unveils choice agenda.  THE, 10 June 2010.

David Willets wants to improve transparency in the higher education sector.  As a start he is asking that universities state how they prepare students for work.  Speaking to the THE, Mr. Willets said “They will force institutions to think through what they offer in terms of maximising employment prospects”.

Sussex cuts threaten a proud history of research-led excellence.  THE, 10 June 2010.

Opinion:   Richard J. Evans, Regius professor of modern history, University of Cambridge.

Readers will be well aware by now that the humanities are under attack and that history and philosophy are in the front line.  Richard Evans comments on the University of Sussex’s plans to withdraw from research and research-led teaching in English social history pre-1700, in the social and political history of continental Europe before 1900 and in social and political theory.

Features in this week’s THE:

The colour of money”, Hannah Fearn reports on the issue of sustainability on campus in a climate of austerity.

A very bearable lightness of being”, in which Rick Rylance, chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, explains how diving and the process of research have their similarities.

Gove reveals where axe will fall.  TE2, 11 June 2010.

Education minister Michael Gove has outlined where he will make £670 million savings to help the Government reach its £6 billion target.  Mr Gove re-iterated his intention to scrap Becta and reduce the grant to local authorities by £311 million.  In addition the secretary will save money from one-to-one tuition, the Training and Development Agency and by scrapping academic diplomas. Ed Balls, the shadow education secretary, has made it clear that the Labour party will not support cuts which lead to the loss of front line services.

GCSE will remain nation’s favourite, predicts exam board behind IGCE.  TES, 11 June 2010.

When the Government announced that it will allow state schools to run the International GCSE, many expressed fears that it would lead to the death of GCSE.  However, the board responsible for IGCSE has said that it believes that the IGCSE will not replace the GCSE as the examination of choice.  It does expect that schools will take advantage of the examination system which differs from GCSE in structure rather than content.  There are no middle of course examinations and the courses are not modular.

Welsh Assembly turns college autonomy on its head.  TES, FE Focus, 11 June 2010.

Whilst English FE colleges are looking to greater freedom from Government control, the Welsh Assembly are doing just the opposite.  Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Assembly minister for children, schools and lifelong learning has appointed a review group whose brief includes bringing to an end incorporation.   Mr Andrews defended the move in terms of 14-19 education, which he says has grown in colleges.  This growth, Mr. Andrews believes, questions the balance of accountability between work related training and parents.  

Protect adult learning.  TES, FE Focus, 11 June 2010.

Whilst the qualifications provider NCFE is pleased with Vince Cables's comments about the importance of adult education, they are concerned that ministers may merely pay lip service to this area of education.