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Sector News, 10 - 14 January 2011

Students eye up foreign universities.  Education Guardian, 11 January 2011.

David Willetts (universities minister) expected a rush for places at university this year. However, he may not have expected a rush to secure places abroad. As fees become higher in England, sixth formers have started looking for opportunities in European and even US universities which they say are as good as and cheaper than English universities.

The Manchester College accused of providing 'poor' prison education.  Education Guardian, 11 January 2011.

Manchester College is once again in the firing line over its prison education provision.  A Skills Funding Agency (SFA) report has recently condemned the education at Reading Young Offenders Institution as unacceptable, a provision Manchester College delivers.  Now a whistle blower has claimed that overpayments of public money are regularly being made.  The skills minster John Hayes has taken the allegations seriously and will investigate the matter.

Taught postgraduate degrees may soon be preserve of the rich.  THE, 13 January 2011.

The mainstream grant that supports taught postgraduate subjects is being cut by 80 per cent.  The courses obtain £150 million in recurrent teaching funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.  The fear is that this funding will not be easily replaced and that taught postgraduate courses in England could become "completely populated" by overseas and wealthy home students.

Legal immunity over marks may wane, expert cautions.  THE, 13 January 2011.

David Palfreyman, director of the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies, is warning that legal action by students unhappy with their marks could become more common if higher education is "commodified" with "mechanistic and formulaic" teaching methods.  Although the current legal view is that grades are a matter of academic judgment, things can change and Mr. Palfreyman points to the scrapping of immunity from litigation for barristers in countries including the UK and New Zealand as evidence of how policy can change over time.

Hefce at arm's length still fears government's controlling hand over budget.  THE, 13 January 2011.

Hefce (Higher Education Funding Council for England) have expressed concern that despite being called an arms length body by the government, the current government is exerting too much control.  In a newly published paper Hefce has said that government insistence on cuts is seriously compromising its independence and its ability to help HE.

Fees reform may leave dozens 'at higher risk'.  THE, 13 January 2011.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England believes that there could be as many as 23 institutions at high risk by the end of the first year of the new tuition-fee regime.  These organisations may well need specialist support to stop them going under.

Stationery orders: printers out and paper cut.  THE, 13 January 2011.

To the annoyance of academics, some universities are already cutting access to copiers and stationery material in an attempt to cut costs.  One academic at Manchester Metropolitan University expressed fears that the institution was going further still: "Our printers are going. We are moving to shared printers - presumably one per campus”.

An immigration bar too far. THE, 13 January 2011.

Opinion: Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics and contemporary history, University of Buckingham.

Universities and further education institutes currently require a licence to sponsor Tier 4 students.  Whilst it is true that a significant number of bogus students enter the UK via Tier 4 the UK Border Agency’s opinion on the best way to meet the government's migration targets is worrying.  The border agency wants to prune the number of licensed institutions by 200, reform the immigration accreditation structure and exclude students from certain nationalities and ethnic backgrounds.

Features in this week’s THE:

Shopping around for a better way to operate?  Try John Lewis”:  Strictly speaking an ‘opinion’ publication, three academics discuss a partnership model which would cut management and make mission key.

The fruits of Californication”: Zoë Corbyn discusses how funding cuts threaten the University of California’s pre-eminence.

The dying of the guiding light: Peter Hill takes a nostalgic look at his time as lighthouse keeper.  Peter Hill is professor of fine art at RMIT University Melbourne.

The Arts.  THE, 13 January 2011.

A nation’s saving grace” Robert Putnam looks at religious diversity in the US, arguing that it is more a force for tolerance than discord.  Under the heading “I see bored people”, Duncan Wu comments on the film “Hereafter”, directed by Clint Eastwood.  Gary Day’s daytime TV slot, "The lost generation", focuses on the plight of young people in Britain today, protecting the consumer and finding love.  Finally “The Pick” brings the reader's attention to the 2011 London International Mime Festival.

Choosing the way forward.  TES, 14 January 2011.

“In the past, taking a job in further education could mean putting the NQT induction year on hold. Now, with the introduction of new Government regulations in September 2008, FE institutions have the framework to provide NQTs with the same mentoring, support and training as a school.”   It is hoped that the new regulations will open up the possibility of careers in either FE or schools, particularly germane to the 14-19 Diploma.

Coalition divided over abolition of EMA.  TES, FE Focus, 14 January 2011

Lib Dem deputy, Simon Hughes, says that he is unsure how he will vote after the House of Commons debate on the abolition of the education maintenance allowance (EMA).  The debate has been forced by the Labour party and he has accepted an offer by shadow education secretary Andy Burnham to try to negotiate wording for a motion that he and other Lib Dems could support.

Raise success rates may threaten priority courses.  TES, FE Focus, 14 January 2011.

A 3 per cent rise in the baseline success rates for FE qualifications is to be imposed by the Skills Funding Agency and Young People’s Learning Agency.  The 3 per cent rise will apply across the board from Apprenticeships to long courses to A levels.  Failure to meet the standards could mean a visit by an Ofsted inspection team and having a notice to improve issued.  If improvement is not achieved then funding for a qualification which does not meet the threshold could be withdrawn.  The Association of Colleges say that the end result of such a move will mean that colleges will stop teaching subjects that may not reach the expected pass rate.

FE to the rescue in higher education funding crisis.  TES, FE Focus, 14 January 2011.

The owner of the Financial Times, Pearson, wants to offer BTEC degrees.  When a publishing heavyweight like Pearson makes a push to offer degrees, then you can expect others to listen.  Pearson already has exam board EDEXCEL as part of its business portfolio.  Working in partnership with FE colleges, an initiative has been drawn up with the help of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. It is clear that the government supports the move.