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Sector News, 08 - 12 February 2010

Brave new curriculum.  Education Guardian, 09 February 2010.

Aberdeen University has made some radical changes to its curriculum in order to aid its objective of becoming one of the world's top 100 universities.  The new curriculum is based upon experiences at the University of Melbourne and is aimed at broadening the curriculum for undergraduates.  Alongside their normal degree courses graduates will be expected to take other subjects such as risk in society, science and the media, the health and wealth of nations and sustainability.  However, the curriculum is more than the addition of new courses, it allows for flexible entry, taking a break during their course and offers greater opportunities for placements both at home and overseas.

The days of plenty are gone – let’s embrace employer-led degree.  Education Guardian, 09 February 2010.

Comment: Simon Roodhouse, director HE@Work, Middlesex University.

Simon believes that there is some logic behind Lord Mandelson’s argument that universities need to look for ways of diversifying their funding.  Many new universities do not have the opportunities that come from the long standing of Oxford and Cambridge who have benefactors and income from publishing.  Many new universities have already developed innovative ways of increasing their income stream.  For example, Buckingham and Greenwich have designed degrees that can be fast tracked in two rather than three years.  The University of Derby has been working with other universities to meet the training needs of the RAF by creating work-based foundation degrees.

How high? ‘Reasonable number’ would accept fees hike.  THE, 11 February 2010.

A survey by Opinionpanel Research has concluded from a sample of 37,000 university students, that more students were prepared to pay fees at the current level  of £3,000 than any other sum.  However, a report by Anna Vignoles, professor of economics of education at the Institute of Education says that the results also indicate a reasonable number of students who would be prepared to pay higher fees, with demand remaining substantial even at £7,000.

A clear and present danger.  THE, 11 February 2010.

Academics are very concerned that their freedom to question is in danger of being eroded or even lost.  There have been a growing number of examples over the past few years where lecturers have lost their jobs because of their outspoken criticism of the management of their institutions or because they expressed an opinion which appeared to be out of step with the university hierarchy. The loss of academic freedom has not gone unnoticed by those abroad.  Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors says the erosion of freedom is happening in countries that have made a major shift to employing people without any long term job security, he points out that the UK is included.  Nelson lists sixteen threats to freedom including the ethos of establishments that see themselves as little more than job trainiers and those who believe that management should have total freedom in times of financial crisis.

The article puts forward a number of suggestions to protect academic freedom as well as publishing the views of a number of academics from both sides of the Atlantic.

See also Leader: Rise up, freedom fighters.

Other major features in this week's THE:

Rocks and hard places”, Mike Petterson’s realisation, through his work as a geologist, of how poor the poor of this world really are.

What’s mine is not yours”, an article about intellectual property and the challenges facing the concept of ownership.

Some A* pupils ‘will get lower marks’ than their A-grade peers.  TES, 12 February 2010.

An anomaly caused by the requirement to obtain 90 per cent of marks on A2 exams has been publicised in this week’s TES.  It will be possible for some students to achieve the 320 threshold for A grade by passing A2 with a 90 per cent plus pass mark and yet their combined marks for the two years could be below a pupil who did not achieve the 90 per cent threshold at A2.  Heads admit that it could be difficult to explain to parents why their child has obtained higher overall marks than others and yet has not achieved an A*.

MPs back ‘immediate’ right for FE staff to teach in schools.  TES, FE Focus, 12 February 2010.

A lack of transferability between the FE and schools sectors is becoming more of a problem in the context of 14-19 reforms.  A report by the Department for Children, Schools and Families select committee has called for those with QTLS status to be immediately available to work in schools.  Whilst transferability is generally welcomed its implementation would create difficulties in a schools sector which is seen as a graduate profession and which is moving towards a requirement to be qualified at masters level.

See also Degrees are academic in quest for parity”.

Bid to boost inclusion is ‘superficial’ says report.  TES, FE Focus, 12 February 2010.

A report by the National Skills Forum says that there is too much focus in further education and training on targets and too little on the needs of students.  The results suggest that systemic rigidity does not encourage excluded communities to take part and the inevitable consequence is that when they do they often develop skills which are needed for the qualification but not required by local employers.