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Sector News, 11 - 15 April 2011

Higher education is more than just tuition fees. Education Guardian, 12 April 2011.

Comment: Professor Paul Wellings, chairman of the 1994 Group and vice-chancellor of Lancaster University.

The government's white paper on higher education has been delayed until at least May. Professor Wellings says that this time should be taken to consider the true worth of higher education and take the debate beyond tuition fees. In this article professor Wellings makes a number of points, for example:

· the treasury in its haste to give students more power have cut the teaching grant, put the onus on fees but underestimated the level of fees that universities require,

· there is a danger that research; postgraduate training; medium-term economic growth; and social impacts will become afterthoughts in the white  paper,

· the government aims for a reduction of 25% in overseas students despite saying the HE UK is open for business

· £100m has been pledged for leading research centres but there is no system of support for postgraduates.


Oxford University and David Cameron clash over black student numbers. Education Guardian, 12 April 2011.

Oxford University has clashed with David Cameron over comments that the PM made in Yorkshire last week. David Cameron accused Oxford of having only one black student admitted last year. The university says that this is not true. The university says that there are a total of 20 black students attending this year and that out of 27 black applicants 7 were accepted last year. Downing Street admits that the wording of the PM was loose but stands by the main point.


Private school students switching to comprehensives. Education Guardian, 12 April 2011.

Headteachers from leading state schools have said that a growing number of teenagers from private schools are applying to attend their sixth forms for their A-levels. In some cases sixth forms have seen a four fold rise in applicants from private schools. The schools concerned believe that there area a number of reasons why this has happened:

· families have less money to spend on school fees,

· more parents are realising that many state schools provide as good an education as their nearby private schools,

· that some top universities are now taking into account the place of education prior to university and allowing for that in their application procedures.


Banking on doubling foreign enrolments is 'unbelievable' aim.  THE, 14 April 2011.

Senior figures in the HE sector are warning that universities are setting unrealistic targets for overseas recruitment. Durham and Exeter have been reported as planning for a rise in non-European students of 97 and 73 percent respectively.  Almost all universities are planning to increase their numbers of foreign students. However, Hefce have said that the plans are unbelievable and are unlikely to be realised.


Private colleges threaten legal action to challenge crippling visa policy. THE, 14 April 2011.

Some private institutions say that the government's new visa regulations will financially cripple them and even force some to close. The clamp down which is intended to deter bogus colleges has also caused confusion about how private colleges will achieve accreditation under the new regime and why the rules appear to being applied differently to the public sector. “Under the new measures, all private colleges must have 'highly trusted sponsor' status by April next year and must, by the end of 2012, be accredited by an approved body such as the Quality Assurance Agency or Ofsted”. Until then colleges will have to freeze their intakes even if they have received the “highly trusted” status. A group of private colleges is seeking legal advice with a view to challenging the government’s authority in the courts.


Robert Gordon uses slick logic to tap the assets of its environment. THE, 14 April 2011.

The principal of Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, has said that the university will be looking to strengthen its relationships with the local oil industry and create strong working relationships with other industries.

He firmly believes that relationshoips between industry and HE are important.


Cable's attack on 'irrational' fee plans leads v-cs to seek more say on policy. THE, 14 April 2011.

In a speech at the Higher Education Funding Council for England's annual conference last week, Vince Cable attacked the universities' rush to put up fees to the maximum level.  The business secretary called the move “economically irrational [and one] which would only magnify risk”.  Vice chancellors at the conference were highly critical of Mr Cable’s comments and requested that they be involved in future policy making as well as demanding more information about the forthcoming government white paper on HE.


Features in this week’s THE.

A starring role beckons”, John Morgan looks at why administrators may play a prominent part in ensuring that students are given more of a role in shaping the sector’s future. Whilst accepting that academic excellence will be a major factor on student decisions, John also believes that other non academic experiences in a university will also become more important.

Rising in the East”, is a feature applauding Yuri Gagarin’s feat of fifty years ago.


The Arts. THE, 14 April 2011.

This week’s arts review covers “The Tempest”, which is being performed at The Barbican, London, until 16 April. Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature at Nottingham Trent University, says that the play is “A fresh, vivid and humorous retelling of Shakespeare's [work]”. Impact: Collisions and Catastrophesis an exhibition on display at Greenwich. Monica Grady explains the impact of the exhibition which she sees as presenting facts “in a straightforward and non-sensational manner”. Monica Grady is  professor in planetary sciences, Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute, The Open University. Gary Day’s TV review is entitled “Dispatches and Campuses”, two programmes about universities shown on Channel 4. According to Gary, both the programmes display absurdities although only one is fictional.


State pupils don’t outperform private peers at university.  TES, 15 April 2011

 A report from Cambridge University contradicts previous studies by concluding that there is no discernible difference between state and private school pupils on the level of degree they achieve. The research has been used to vindicate Cambridge’s move to focus on GCSE and A level results rather than interview performance.


Forget 2:2 degrees, PISA rankings guru urges Gove. TES, 15 April 2011.

Andreas Schleicher a German mathematician who is overseeing the Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) disagrees with Michael Gove’s decision that teachers should only be drawn from the top tier of graduates. Mr. Schleicher has been praised by Michael Gove as one of the most important men in education. However, Andreas Schleicher says that there is no evidence to support Michael Gove’s contention that the best performing countries only employ the best graduates as teachers. Instead he urges the UK Government to put more money into teacher training and that by giving money straight to schools the minister is failing to meet white paper promises.


SFA offers lifeline after free courses withdrawal. TES, FE Focus, 15 April 2011.

The Skills Funding Agency has said that where adult numbers fall because of the changes in entitlement to free courses, adult funding will be partly protected. The offer is for one year and is intended to give colleges time to adapt to the new regime which FE are convinced will ensure a rapid decline in adult numbers.


Westminster may axe its adult-learning service. TES, FE Focus, 15 April 2011.

Westminster Adult Education Service is less than six months away from being evicted by Westminster City Council to make way for a free school. The Council is threatening to raise the organisation’s rent to a level which will threaten its survival and may terminate its role as a major adult education provider.


Cash crisis forces disabled students’ charity to close. TES, FE Focus, 15 April 2011.

Skill, until recently, was a charity that supported disabled FE students to stay in learning and gain employment. However, its board of trustees has decided that it was no longer viable to keep the charity open.


Forced study for unemployed could put FE funding at risk. TES, FE Focus, 15 April 2011.

A skills conditionality policy is being introduced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions which FE believes will leave them out of pocket and cause disruption for other learners. Benefit claimants who fail to attend or complete the training could have their benefits cut.


Ifl has helped the Cinderella sector to shine. TES, FE Focus, 15 April 2011.

Opinion: James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers.

James Noble Rogers holds the opinion that the rise in the status of FE teachers is partly due to the establishment of the Institute for Learning (Ifl). He cites as evidence for this opinion as:

· self regulation through an autonomous body is the hallmark of a profession,

· Ifl has some 180,000 members and its web site attracts one million visits a year,

· QTLA (qualified teacher learning and skills) has been recommended by Alison Wolfe as a passport to allow FE teachers to teach in schools, this would not have happened had it not been for Ifl,

· Ifl tirelessly promotes the interests of the profession.