Skip to main content

Sector News, 07 - 11 March 2011

BTecs to get national results day. Education Guardian, 08 March 2011.

Edexcel, the exam body that is under fire over the use of vocational qualifications for league table positions, is to open up its data to public scrutiny.  The plan is to mirror the GCSE and A level results day, possibly raising public awareness of BTec courses that have become increasingly popular with students. Edexcel will make information on BTec pass rates available in individual subjects, the proportion of entries awarded a merit or distinction grade and a breakdown of subjects relative to gender and regions across the UK.


Encouraging Entrepreneurs is vital for the future. Education Guardian, 08 March 2011.

Comment; Tom Bewick, chief executive of Enterprise UK.

Tom Bewick is less than enamoured by the Wolf Review of Vocational Education.  In his opinion the conclusions have been drawn up from an academic perspective. Although many of Alison Wolf’s recommendations are laudable, her general desire to raise the level of vocational qualifications is wrong. He believes that Michael Gove has accepted the findings with open arms because they fit with his narrow views of higher education being for the few elite whilst the rest study better vocational qualifications.  Tom believes that today demands that young people do not have an either/or approach to vocational and academic qualifications, they need both if they are to become successful entrepreneurs.


Should universities take donations from tyrants? Education Guardian, 08 March 2011.

The London School of Economics (LSE) has found itself at the centre of a controversy over the acceptance of funds from the Gadaffi household. Recently, the LSE suspended links with the Gadaffi International Charity and Development Foundation and the LSE’s Howard Davis resigned stating (amongst other points) that the Government of the day had encouraged the schools' engagement with the Libyans on financial reform.  The issues beg the question “How far should universities go in dealing with countries whose track record, particularly over human rights, is not altogether satisfactory”?


THE World university rankings. THE, 10 March 2011.

This week the THE has published its “World University Rankings” which has seen Harvard come out top and Cambridge placed third on the list. Oxford has been placed sixth in the top ten in a table once again dominated by US institutions.  

See also: Six 'superbrands': their reputations precede them , the THE’s discussion about the tables andFrom where I sit - Work on facts behind the figures, Seeram Ramakrishna, professor and vice-president (research strategy), National University of Singapore comments on the worth of league tables.


Beware of autocratic regimes bearing gifts: spotlight illuminates dark side of donations. Gaddafi et al: PhD was a team effort.  THE, 10 March 2011.

Two articles concerning the awards given to LSE by the Gadaffi regime firstly warning about accepting gifts from so-called tyrant states and the second explaining the fall out from the award of a PhD to Col. Gadaffi’s son.


Diversity charges for higher fees. THE, 10 March 2011.

Universities charging tuition fees of £9,000 a year will be expected to spend up to £1,000 per student on measures to improve the diversity of their student bodies. The Office for Fair Access (Offa) has warned that universities with very few poor students should spend about 30 per cent of the income gained from the portion of fees above the £6,000 threshold. However, universities with already diverse student populations will only be expected to spend around 15% of their fee income in diversity measures.  The caveat to the warning is that measures will only be taken against universities who commit a serious or willful breach of their access agreement.


Willetts offers fuzzy logic as visa changes draw fire. THE, 10 March 2011.

David Willetts, the universities minister, has come under fire once again over the proposed visa changes. His explanations to the Home Affairs Committee were not met with universal acceptance.  Those opposed to the changes, which include the parliamentary opposition and education establishments, accuse Mr Willetts of putting statistics before common sense. The opposition argue that whist they accept that there are abuses of the current system, to apply a pro-rata cut across the board ignores the fact that 60 per cent of applicants are for educational purposes and hence any cut is disproportionate.

See also:Over here, but not over the moon, study shows in which Rebecca Attwood says that it is about time to stop seeing foreign students as a problem and see them as part of a globalisation process.


Imitation of life: plaything promises to offer insight into stereotyping. THE, 10 March 2011.

There is an old parlour game in which a man and a woman go out of a room and answer questions, in writing, put to them by the rest of the group. The group’s job is to guess which are the man’s and which are the woman’s answers and which are being disguised as a woman’s or man’s answers. 

Academics have adapted this game to create a powerful experimental technique for social research. Someone from a group, perhaps defined by race, religion or sexual orientation, sits at a computer and types in questions. The person inputting gets a response from two people, one a genuine member of the same group and the other attempting to pass as one. The judge must determine who the impostor is and explain their reasoning. Both the number of questions required to reach a conclusion and the person's degree of certainty are also recorded. If the samples are large enough and the number of questions required to reach a conclusion, and the reasons behind it are recorded then the results can provide revealing data about stereotyping, tolerance and mutual understanding.


It's a Browne world, but there's still a place for us. THE, 10 March 2011.

Simon Baker looks at the effects that the Browne Review has had on Bucks New University, High Wycombe. The university has very little science, technology, engineering or mathematics and believes that Government policy has demeaned their work.


Features in this week’s THE.

Other than the university rankings the only other feature in this week’s THE isTainted money? Richard J. Evans is Regius professor of history, University of Cambridge, and president of Wolfson College, Cambridge and his article discusses Alfred Toepfer and his foundation, which offers scholarships to Oxbridge students. It has raised allegations of a cover-up of his support for Hitler's Reich.


The Arts. THE, 10 March 2011.

This week’s film review investigatesNorwegian Wood directed by Tran Anh Hung. Philip Dodd who is visiting professor at the University of the Arts London concluded that the film “For all its intelligence and moments of arresting beauty, for all its sensuousness and its Asian aesthetic, Norwegian Wood has the problems of some art films from Europe, of confusing solemnity with seriousness, glumness with tragedy”. Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World; comments on a new exhibition in the British Museum which starts with examples from Afghanistan’s Bronze Age. The article’s author is Martin Bayly, founder of the Afghan Studies Group at the department of war studies, King's College London. Gary Day’s TV slot covers the BBC Four’s The Story of Variety commentated by Michael Grade. The Pick; looks at a photographic exhibition of the early to mid twentieth century Bohemian photographer Ida Kar.


The Government believes that many children with special needs are being assessed too late. A green paper focusing on SEN will suggest that every child should be assessed for special needs before the age of three. Children’s minister, Heather Teather, has also proposed replacing SEN statements with health and care plans which will run from birth to the age of 25.

Labour to ‘guarantee’ C in English and maths. TES, 11 March 2011.

A policy review being launched by Andy Burnham will guarantee a Labour government's aim to ensure that every child leaves school with a C grade in English and mathematics. 


Why Ofsted should get in touch with its inner accountant. 11 March 2011.

John Fairhurst, president of the Association of School and College Leaders, has asked for Ofsted inspectors to become more supportive and less bullying. John uses his experience as a junior auditor to explain how auditors see their role as helping as well as inspecting, a role model that could be usefully adopted by Ofsted.


Fury as Ifl squirrels away £2m in reserves. TES, FE Focus, 11 March 2011.

Ifl say that their fees will have to double from £30 to £68 a year.  However, financial returns have shown that last year the organisation made a surplus of nearly half a million pounds bringing its total reserves to £2 million.  There are few lecturers who feel that they receive any benefit from being forced to be members of Ifl and they are outraged by the demand for fee increases with what they see as such a large surplus.


Will Wolf’s tough talking take FE to the next level?  TES, FE Focus, 11 March 2011.

This is a further look at the Wolf Report first published in FE Focus on 04 March “Lecturers’ banishment from schools is to end”. Colleges feel that the comments made in the report and by Michael Gove have diminished the worth of their work in vocational education. However, there are sections of the report that praise highly the work of those involved in vocational education which Alison Wolf says are of a very high standard. Tony Fazaeli the Institute for Learning chief executive is concerned that the report has been mis-reported. Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group say that it is clear that “it is the centralised design of qualifications and the way they have been used by Government agencies that is the core of the issue, not colleges”.  There are a number of other leading figures who express their opinions about the report in this article. For example, Frank McLoughlin, City and Islington College principal, says that “Many 14 to 16 year olds thrive in different environments outside school”, in response to the Wolf Report’s call for colleges to be legally allowed to enrol 14 to 16 year olds.


The £745m cut that could save the EMA. TES, FE Focus, 11 March 2011.

Comment: Lord (Phil) Willis Liberal Democrat education spokesman.

Lord Willis agrees that supporting the poorest of students with a maintenance grant is a strategy that is worthwhile. His belief is that by looking at 16-19 year old benefits in total the Government could find ways to protect the payment.  In his article he explains how he believes this could be achieved by primarily re-assessing non-means tested child benefit.