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Sector News, 11-15 October 2010

Rich graduates to fare better in tuition fees shake up.  The Guardian, 11 October 2010.    

Lib Dem MPs are prepared to vote against Lord Browne’s plan to raise tuition fees and change loan repayment levels.  The Lib Dems believe that the adoption of Lord Browne’s plan would mean that graduates earning between £35,000 and £60,000 are likely to pay back more than those earning over £100,000.  Lord Browne is suggesting a rise in tuition fees up to a maximum of £6,250 a year whilst protecting lower earners by raising the threshold for loan re-payments to £21,000.  Rebel Lib Dem MPs have made it clear that they intend to stand by their manifesto promise to oppose any rise in university tuition fees.

See also "Browne Review at a glance" and "Vince Cable battling to head off full-scale Lib Dem rebellion", both in "Education Guardian", 12 October.

Immigration cap will drive away academic talent.  Education Guardian, 12 October 2010.

Universities are concerned that a shift in immigration law will stop them recruiting the numbers of highly qualified scientists that they need.  Last week two Russian academics working at Manchester University won the Nobel prize for physics. Academics are worried that the Government is giving out wrong messages that UK universities have unsustainable student numbers and that UK research is mediocre.

See also: "Universities rely on international staff and students".

Lord Browne of Madingley’s Review. THE, 14 October 2010.

This week’s THE has a number of articles on Lord Browne of Madingley’s review of HE funding and student finance. 

A gamble on the market. 

The leader fires the opening salvo by focussing on the threatened increase in tuition fees of £6,000 to £7,000 and the proposal that universities will have no cap on the number of students they admit.

Lord of the market:  let competition choice drive quality.

Lord Browne’s review is requesting a massive cut in teaching funding and an open market in fees and student numbers.  The review concedes that fees of £6,000 are unlikely to bridge the loss of public investment expected in the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October.  A call for an end to the cap on student numbers is included in the plan as is support for the extension of fee support to part-time students.  Comments from various universities about the review are mixed, Nicholas Barr, professor of public economics at the London School of Economics thinks that the plan is a good one.  Others accept that the plan may force poor institutions to close and help good ones expand.  However, there is considerable criticism of the suggestion that teaching funds should focus on higher cost subjects to the detriment of arts, social sciences and humanities.  

Lord Browne insists that removing the panel’s proposal to remove teaching grants from low cost subjects will not lead to the disciplines becoming the preserve of elite institutions (Low cost subjects ‘should survive the loss of grants’).  However, the review says that there should be only two categories of courses that attract funding from the funding council, clinical training programmes such as medicine and priority subjects such as engineering.

See also “In the shake-up to come no guarantees for anyone”.

The THE has its own summary of the review under the headline Heart of the matter”.

From dawn till dawn: the daily anxieties of teachers.  THE, 14 October 2010.

On 9 September we reported a THE item in which a group of researchers were undertaking a study of teachers' lives by asking the teachers to keep a diary of their working day (“Researchers aim to capture a day in the teaching life”).  The first results are published in this story by Rebecca Attwood.  There are some interesting if not unexpected comments in the diaries. For example, one states "A pretty standard day for the week before our registration week, this, I suppose, consisting of doing highly professorial things such as photocopying," and yet another “Checking e-mails while in my nightie” and “Answering emails from my sofa at 6.45 am”.

For more on the project or to take part visit:

Feature in the week’s THE:

Don’t be afraid to share”:  Sarah Cunnane examines the role in the academy of information sharing through social media.

Face values”; in which Kathleen Richards argues that Facebook users have not lost their sense of appropriate behaviour, the site has simply relaxed some social rules.

Often absent, ever nearBernard Ramanantsoa talks about Valmagne in the south of France, a place he escapes to.

Culture The Arts, THE 14 October 2010.

Lupulus in fabula”: Alex Danchev, University of Nottingham discusses Paul Gauguin’s life.

Dreaming in Technicolor”: Duncan Wu, Georgetown University, explains why Aboriginal song and dance has won him over to music.

Browne proposals could spell the end for BEds universities warn.  TES, 15 October 2010.

57 per cent of those starting teaching courses in 2007 had A-levels equivalent of two Cs and a B. Under the Browne review, the proportion of places reserved for undergraduates without traditional qualifications could be just 10 per cent.  Universities say that this will undermine their ability to take a wide range of entrants and could spell the end of the BEd courses.  The Browne review warned that higher undergraduate fees could have an effect on post graduate course, which include PGCE.

IB examiner stayed in post after Wiki plagiarism revealed.  TES, 15 October 2010.

The International Baccalaureate Organisation said that the examiner at the centre of the plagiarism scandal had resigned last week.  However, it has come to light that the examiner was kept in post for five weeks after the revelation. (First story reported on October 10th).

See also: Plagiarism revelation sparks IB interrogation”.

Top independents have ‘no appetite’ to ditch A-levels and GCSEs.  TES, 15 October 2010.

Media reports about large numbers of private schools opting out of standard qualifications are over stated, so said a report by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.  Despite many schools looking at IGCSE, Pre U and the International Baccalaureate most are not considering abandoning GCSE and A levels.  There is a concern about the modular nature of existing GCSE and A level course, but that is not a concern that is being transformed into anti-modular action.

GTC gives up fight on qualifications parity.  TES, FE Focus, 15 October 2010.

The General Teaching Council for England (GTC) has given up on its attempts to gain parity for FE qualifications in school.  The edict has come about because of the threat of abolition to the schoolteachers’ regulatory body.  The decision means that lecturers with FE qualifications will not be able to demand the same salary as school teachers when teaching in schools.   There has been work carried out between the Institute for Learning and the GTC to devise a short term programme to establish parity without extensive retakes of qualifications.  However, a spokesperson for GTC said that further work is useless because when the research is completed the schoolteachers’ regulatory body may not exist.

BT says it should skill up whole telecoms sector. TES, FE Focus, 15 October 2010.

Andy Palmer, head of skills at BT, has said that BT wants to train its industry to meet unprecedented demands for training places.  BT, one of the country’s largest apprenticeship providers, said that it has received 26,000 applicants for 236 places.  Mr. Palmer said that BT should take on many more apprentices than it needs and then make them available to other employers.

Colleges could triumph in HE funding shake-up as cheaper route to degree.  TES, FE Focus, 15 October 2010.

Typically, a degree level course in a college is nearly £2,000 less than its equivalent in a university.  Little wonder that colleges see an opportunity in the raising of tuition fees as suggested in Lord Browne’s review.  Although colleges will admit that competing on price does not always work the sector generally believes that as students face ever growing demands on their pocket, price will become a factor.

Partnership may create £340m federation educating students from secondary to PhD.  TES, FE Focus, 15 October 2010.

Salford University has signed an agreement with Manchester College which is seen as the first steps towards a federation or even merger.  Peter Tavernor, the college principal, says that they will make savings from shared back room services but “Will also be able to become more effective educationally”.

FE prepares to bite the bullet as its fiscal day of destiny draws near.  TES, FE Focus, 15 October 2010.

A fall of £300 to £400 million is the anticipated fall in FE funding each year until 2014.  The proposal to cut the budget by this amount could lead to 80,000 job losses and a reduction of up to 80,000 places.  Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the Institute for Learning (IfL), says that there is disbelief that the cuts will lead to there being more part-time teachers and trainers.  Ms Fazaeli also believes that when the cuts are announced colleges should do everything they can to protect front line staff and considers teaching staff in FE to be over managed.  The Association of Colleges is concerned over the drift into the private sector.