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Sector News, 10 - 14 May 2010

Strong increase in demand for adult education.  Guardian Education, 11 May 2010.

According to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education Services (Niace), 47 per cent of the country’s adult population plan to take up further education this year.  Additionally those who say they are unlikely to take up education has dropped from 47 per cent to last year to 34 per cent this year. One of the key reasons for the surge in demand appears to be the fear about job security.

Sector fears for future as commons champions are lost.  THE, 13 May 2010.

An analysis of new MPS suggests that only one in twenty have experience of higher education, where previously the commons had a ratio of one in ten.  The loss of this expertise is worrying universities, who fear that this may work against them.  As well as fearing the loss of all or part of the Browne Review of fees and funding, four HE organisations have expressed specific concerns.  For example:

  • Million+ are worried about the 100,000 potential students who are unlikely to get a place at university. 
  • GuildHE state the importance of reducing the gap between full and part-time funding, reviewing fees and the sustainability of institutions.
  • 1994Group want the government to prioritise the maintenance of academic quality, promote differentiation, ensure institutional autonomy and support internationalisation.
  • University Alliance, wishes the government to understand the economic importance of universities.

 See also Preservation of this national asset must be your top priority”, Opinion, Steve Smith, president Universities UK.

Rookie ministers steered away from ‘bad history’.  THE, 13 May 2010.

Politicians have been warned about focussing on poor quality history and to turn to academics for the facts.   Academics argue that basing policy on golden ages or historical myths is no good at all.  As examples they refer to debates on the economic crisis which focus on just a few parallels such as the Great Depression whist there could be lessons to be learned form public sector cuts of 1922 or even the collapse of Australian banks in the 1890s.

Universities set to strut their stuff.  THE, 13 May 2010.

Universities Week, this summer, will be a campaign which aims to tell the unsung success story of higher education.  The campaign will try to address a public perception of universities that does not always match reality.

Linguistic isolationism.  THE, 13 May 2010.

Opinion Anthony Bushell, professor of modern languages (German) at Bangor University.

Professor Bushell points to the continuing reduction of modern language provision in UK universities.  As examples he cites Cambridge University which is withdrawing its provision for modern Greek and Dutch, and the University of Leicester and Queens’ University Belfast which have abandoned German.  There are now regions of the UK where there is no language provision in certain key areas.  Sadly where languages have not been lost they been replaced by provision which does not explore the cultural achievements of the country whose language is being studied.

Features in this week’s THE:

 Space to think”, explores the issues surrounding the loss of private academic space in universities.

From the mindfulness of babes”, Crystal N. Feimster explains how her four-year-old son's ability to live in the here and now has affected her life.

Money for antique rope”, Clive Bloom argues that most humanities research is the self indulgent pursuit of obscure hobbies that does not merit funding.

Poll backs merger to create single exam board.  TES, 14 May 2010.

Teachers want to see an end to the competitive nature of examination boards and favour a single unified awarding body.   A poll by the NUT has found that 51 per cent of teachers (no sample size stated) would prefer a single exam board to remove the concerns they have about competition eroding standards.

No links to FE Focus yet. 

Thumbs up for Cable, but reform confusion reigns.  TES, FE Focus, 14 May 2010.

Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the Conservative Lib-Dem coalition the serious aspects of government are starting to be discussed.   The appointment of Vince Cable as secretary of state for Business, Innovation and Skills was met with approval by the FE sector generally.  However, speculation about the future funding of further education and skills has shown that the sector has some concerns about that future.  There is a consensus between the two parties about the creation of a stand alone funding agency but the mechanism is not agreed.   Learning providers are hoping that the Conservatives will stand by their pledges to give FE more freedom to deliver education with minimal interference from a funding council.  It is thought by the sector that the Young People’s Learning Agency is under threat and that the Train to Gain budget will be severely curtailed in order to pay for the promised new apprenticeships.

See also editorial,  “Political toing and froing will be felt by FE”.

Rise in poor’s demand for adult education: ‘first in 20 years’  TES, FE Focus, 14 May 2010.

A recent Niace poll of 5,000 adults across the UK has shown that the demand for adult education has risen among the poor and unemployed for the first time in 20 years.  Alan Tuckett, chief executive of Niace has warned that the impending £340 million cuts being implemented would hit the poorest hard.