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Sector News, 08 - 12 September 2008

Are degrees worth the paper they're printed on?  The Independent, 08 September 2008.

Despite the groing number of applicants to universities, our qualification system is becoming lack-lustre and losing international credibility.  The Indpenent exploreshow this has happened. 

Will sixth-form colleges gain from a return to the fold?  Education Guardian, 09 September 2008.

Comment – Ann Robinson, Association of Colleges.

From September sixth from colleges will be granted their own legal identity and they will then be returned to local authority control.  There is a strong sense that the colleges will continue to perform their work, which in many cases is distinctly different to school sixth forms.  However, there are issues with the move, not least that they will be compared with schools and risk losing existing partnerships

Calls for heads to roll over maintenance grant fiasco.  Education Guardian, 09 September 2008.

There has been considerable confusion over which if the two educational departments, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills or the Department for Children Schools and Families, is responsible for the education maintenance grant.  However, this confusion pales into insignificance when compared with the mess that Liberata (the group responsible for distributing the fund) has created.

What is the meaning of lifelong learning?  Education Guardian, 09 September 2008.

There is little hope that the government will look to improve the ailing adult education market in the near future.  The University of the Third Age (U3A) organisation has had its numbers swollen through the loss of opportunity in adult education.    It is now making overtures to the government to support adult education in general and U3A in particular.

Westminster meddlers 'destroying confidence in British education'.  The Independent, 09 September 2008.

In a hard hitting speech, Simon Lebus, chief executive of Cambridge Assessment, has accused the government of “ministerial interference [which] has inflicted widespread damage on the international standing of Britain's education system”.

Tory promise: more students more freedom.  THE, 11 September 2008

 “Universities should be allowed to exceed their student number quotas by 10 per cent to increase competition, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Higher Education has said”.  There is also a proposal to free universities from government interference before elite institutions are forced to drop out of the state system.

Students more satisfied than ever before.  THE, 11 September 2008

The results of the 2008 National Student Survey suggest that there is increasing student satisfaction with our universities.  However, there are still concerns over assessment.  Whilst the national Union of Students welcomed the findings they expressed concern that students taking higher education courses in further education colleges were less satisfied than their counterparts in universities.

Students are failed in business know-how.  THE, 11 September 2008.

An on-going saga, that of the lack of entrepreneurship in degree courses, is aired again in this weeks THE.  A joint report from the Council for Industry and Higher Education and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts states that 11 per cent of UK students are involved in entrepreneurship, most of which is taught in business schools. The organisations ask that more be done to assist students in obtaining work related skills in other degree courses by integrating the teaching rather than tagging it on to the end of a course.

The real sting of the QAA whip. THE, 11 September 2008.

Malcolm Grant, president and provost of the University of London, says that attacks on the grading system will harm the UK’s reputation.  Additionally, the British predilection for self deprecation does little to improve standards is counterproductive.

University test to help poorer pupils 'favours middle class'.  The Independent, 11 September 2008.

An intelligence test designed to help youngesters from poor backgrounds to gain sntry to university actually favours white boys from grammer schools.   This is the finding of a government inquiry into university admissions.

Future of NVQs put in doubt.  TES, 12 September 2008.

 It has emerged this week that the government is planning the largest overhaul of vocational qualifications for twenty years.  A new three tier range of qualifications are being created under the Qualifications and Credit framework.   Some of the new qualifications may be based on NVQs but the title will be optional.

 See also:

 NVQs' future in the balance. TES, FE Focus, 12 September 2008.

 In this article the TES goes a step further stating that NVQs are to be abandoned.   There is some understandable concern expressed by employers in industries such as construction and manufacturing who see the changes undermining their attempts to establish NVQs as a universally accepted qualification.  In Scotland SVQs are being kept, scrapping them in England will ignore the huge amount of work that has gone into making employers understand them.  A spokesperson for DIUS said Ofqual introduced changes to allow NVQs to be retained because of the high reputation it had in some sectors.

Unholy row over study of humanism.  TES, 12 September 2008.

 England’s new qualifications regulator (Ofqual) has barred an exam board from making humanism central to its religious studies GCSE.  The British Humanist Association has launched a legal action against the decision.  The association comments that “It threatens to turn back the progress of recent decades…and is a real kick in the teeth to all who worked towards that progress”.

Exam boards question watchdog’s freedom.  TES, 12 September 2008.

 Both Edexcel and OCR have warned the government that their regulatory body Ofqual will be too involved in the detail of designing examinations, making it harder for the government to be seen to be standing apart from the annual debate about standards.  Both organisations are convinced that the proposals will not remove the possibility of political influence.

Remove Shackles and set diplomas free.  TES, 12 September 2008.

 Comment – Geoff Lucas secretary, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference. 

 Too complex, is how a growing number of interested parties is describing the new diplomas.   Arguments against the diploma range from confusion of purpose (neither academic nor vocational) to the desire to cater for the motivated and disaffected at the same time.  Geoff Lucas’s opinion, is that the compulsion element of the diploma should be removed and the qualification should be made less complex.

LSC helps out hard-up students.  TES, FE Focus, 12 September 2008.

 Students who have suffered from the bureaucratic log jam which has prevented them from receiving their grants, are to be helped by the Learning Skills Council (LSC).    150,000 students have been affected by the difficulties experienced with the Liberata computer system and helplines. Liberata is the company that processes the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

Watch closely and see standards rise.  TES, FE Focus, 12 September 2008.

 More than 60 per cent of colleges are now rated as good or outstanding.  The improvement is credited to increasingly tough lesson observations.  Since 2005, the number of colleges rated good or outstanding has risen from just under half to nearly two thirds.