Skip to main content

Sector News, 12 - 16 April 2010

Sailing through life without a degree.  Education Guardian, 13 April 2010.

Figures from the Higher Education Careers Service Unit show that graduate unemployment rose by 44% in the year to November 2009.  Couple this with the generation of student debt and it is little wonder that some students are thinking twice about going to university at all.   At Cirencester College top students with obvious potential for university are choosing to go straight into work.  The example given is of a student who achieved four As at A level and a distinction in his Btec national award.  Cirencester use the example to point out that the student is one of a number of high achieving students who are deciding that new courses at their local FE college are good enough.

Colleagues and competitors. Education Guardian, 13 April 2010.

The Guardian has held one of its round table seminars with high ranking people from university and government to look at the future of HE.   Whether their deliberations will have any impact on government thinking is open to debate.  However, they have come up with some interesting points of which but a few are shown below:

  • collaboration is vital for the survival of universities,
  • the decision to remove funding for second and lower level degrees has had a negative impact in lifelong learning,
  • we need to move away from the model of 18-21 year olds studying full time as the only model for universities,
  • universities need to communicate more effectively with the public on what they do,
  • university mergers are risky, collaboration is a better idea,
  • citizen researchers (members of the public) will have an increasingly significant role to play in research in the future,
  • technology will play a large part in shaping what universities have to offer.

Under the headline above and A break with tradition”, the issues are discussed more fully.

Party manifestos. 15 April 2010.

Every paper has coverage of the main parties' manifestos issued during the last week or so, for example in the THE this week there is New manifestos, familiar stories”.  Shown below is a synopsis of party promises as they directly affect post-sixteen education.   Although pledges concerning school have been omitted, clearly some of these will affect post-sixteen education, for example, statements about the Diploma and GCSE along with Gifted and Talented schemes.  If the reader wants to see the full manifestos then they are available via the links from the top of each column.  Note that there is no intention of comparison across the table, the items are merely listed as we have found them in the manifestos. Our apologies if we have missed something out,





Ring-fenced science budget in the next spending review.

Provide 10,000 extra university places in 2010.

A work placement scheme with up to 800,000. Young people to be paid £55 a week for up to three months.

Investment for Technology and Innovation Centres.

Introduce an early repayment bonus on student loans which are repaid ahead of schedule.

15,000 extra Foundation Degree places.

Support university research through the Higher Education Innovation Fund.

Work to improve the way that universities are funded so that students get a fair deal, disadvantaged young people don’t miss out and researchers get the funding they need.

Meet costs of adult apprenticeships, and increase the Adult Learning Grant to £45 a week for 18–24 year-olds in Further Education.

Development of a new University Enterprise Capital Fund.

Provide people with much better information about the true costs and benefits of going to university and help people choose the course and institution which is right for them.

Respect the convention that the science budget, once allocated through the Comprehensive Spending Review process, is not used for other purposes.

Universities will be encouraged to develop international links and research partnerships.

Create an extra 100,000 apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships each year.

Decisions on the funding of research projects are made on the basis of peer review, government to identify broad strategic priorities.

Open University and learndirect to reach the global market in distance learning.

Give small and medium businesses a £2,000 bonus for every new apprentice they hire, and make it much easier for firms to run apprenticeships.

Ensure that all state-funded research, including clinical trials, is publicly accessible and that the results are published and subject to peer review.

New gateway for the export of NHS intellectual property and cutting-edge services.

Provide an extra 100,000 college places over two years so unemployed young people can improve their skills.

Reform science funding to ensure that genuinely innovative scientific research is identified and supported.

Spending increased on frontline Sure Start and free childcare, schools and 16-19 learning.

Provide 100,000 new ‘work pairings’ over two years so unemployed young people can get meaningful work experience and mentoring from businesspeople.

Tackle the gender gap at all levels of scientific study and research, increase the supply of scientists.

Every young person guaranteed education or training until 18, with 75 per cent going on to higher education, or completing an advanced apprenticeship or technician level training, by the age of 30.

Offer much better careers advice, including providing expert advice in every secondary school and college and setting up a new careers service for adults.

Giving disabled job seekers better practical help to get to work, using voluntary and private sector providers, as well as JobCentre Plus services. Reform Access to Work, so disabled people can apply for jobs with funding already in place for equipment and adaptation that they need.

Continued expansion of higher education.

Establish a Community Learning Fund to help adults who want to learn new skills or restart their careers.

Improve teacher training by increasing the size of the school-based Graduate Teacher Programme and support the expansion of Teach First to attract more top graduates into teaching

Mentoring and support for higher education applications to all low-income pupils with the potential for university study.

Abolish many of the further education quangos, and cut bureaucracy and inspections in colleges.

Establish a fully independent Educational Standards Authority (ESA, replace the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency and the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator (OFQUAL).

Priority in the expansion of student places will be given to Foundation Degrees and part-time study, and to science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees, as well as applied study in key economic growth sectors.

Delay the implementation of the new funding system for universities – the Research Excellence Framework – and work with academics to ensure that there is a robust and acceptable way of measuring the impact of all research.

Create a General Diploma to bring GCSEs, A-Levels and high quality vocational qualifications together, enabling pupils to mix vocational and academic learning.

Universities will be required clearly to set out how they will ensure a high-quality learning experience for students.

Pledge to cover university and further education costs for children of those killed on active duty.

Give 14–19 year-olds the right to take up a course at college, rather than at school, enable all children to choose to study, for example, separate sciences or modern languages at GCSE, or a vocational subject.

The choices and views of students should play an important part in shaping courses and teaching.

Youth Action for Work. To give young people the skills they need to get a sustainable job for the future, over two years we will fund 200,000 apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, 100,000 work pairings and 100,000 further education college places.

Close the funding gap between pupils in school sixth forms and Further Education colleges, as resources allow.

All young people will stay on in learning until 18.

Work Clubs. Provision of seed funding to establish a network of Work Clubs, places where people receive mentoring, skills training and help to find local job opportunities.

Reform the existing national pay and conditions rules to give schools and colleges more freedom, including in offering financial and other incentives to attract and retain excellent teachers, while ensuring that all staff receive the minimum national pay award.

Education Maintenance Allowances will be retained.


Scrap university tuition fees for all students taking their first degree, including those studying part-time. Phase fees out over six years. Immediately scrap fees for final year students.

Entitlement to an apprenticeship place in 2013 for all suitably qualified 16-18 year olds.


Reform current bursary schemes to create a National Bursary Scheme for students

Greater freedom for all colleges to respond to local community needs and free them up from red tape.


Replace quangos (the Skills Funding Agency and the Higher Education Funding Council for England) with a single Council for Adult Skills and Higher Education.

‘Traffic-light’ grading system for all courses and colleges.


Scrap target of 50 per cent of young people attending university

Pioneer University Technical Colleges and new Studio Schools that offer innovative curricula involving practical learning and paid work.


Begin discussions with universities and schools about the design of a trial scheme whereby the best students from the lowest achieving schools are guaranteed a place in Higher Education.

Advanced apprenticeships will be radically expanded.


Fund 15,000 new places on Foundation Degree courses and fully fund the off-the-job costs of adult apprenticeships

Three-quarters of young people to enter higher education or complete an advanced apprenticeship or equivalent technician-level qualification by the time they are 30.


End Train to Gain funding for large companies, restricting the funds to the small and medium-sized firms.

New apprenticeship scholarships will enable the best apprentices to go on to higher education.


Expanding paid internships for students.



Careers advice for young people, including for younger children, will be overhauled.




Get back to your technological roots, Jisc urged.  THE, 15 April 2010.

A poll of delegates at the Joint Information Systems Committee (Jisc) annual conference has said that poor leadership, poor technological skills and restrictions on funding are threats to progress.  The delegates also suggested that a focus on a traditional degree model was stymieing creativity.

Its terminal for integrated medicine diploma.  THE, 15 April 2010.

The University of Buckingham, the UK’s only private university, has said that it is scrapping its integrated medicine degree less than a year after it started.  Buckingham joins a long line of universities who have removed complementary and alternative medicine courses from their curriculum.

Your sporting chance.  THE, 15 April 2010.

Heather Fell won a silver medal in the women’s modern pentathlon at the Bejing Olympics.  Here she discusses the opportunities that HE offers the student in the realm of sport and general fitness.

Features in this week’s THE:

Fallout assessment”, A study of the London Met crisis which has left university governance and mergers under scrutiny.

Ready to charge?  Hannah Fearn asks how long Scotland can continue with the policy of not charging students' fees.

Ink and wonder”.  Sunil Manghani, reader in critical and cultural theory, York St. John University, discusses how he and his daughter have been affected by being apprentice calligraphers practising the Japanese art of shodo.

Which party should lead the way to further education’s future?  TES, FE Focus, 16 April 2010.

The TES has produced a similar table to the one above showing the differences between the three major parties' manifestos as it affects further education. 

Their table goes a step further by discussing the pros and cons of each party’s promises.

Efficiency crackdown could save FE up to £230 million a year.  TES, FE Focus, 16 April 2010.

Tribal, a public sector services company that holds data on spending for about 100 colleges, says that the majority spend an average of 5 per cent more than the most efficient performers.  If the bottom three quarters of colleges could deliver the same provision as efficiently as the top performers, colleges could save up to £230 million per year.  Both Tribal and other contributors to the article are of the opinion that the efficient colleges will not be able to save more money without cutting front line services.

See also Editorial; Bigger doesn’t always mean better colleges”.

Tories would move fast to legislate for funding council.  TES, FE Focus, 16 April 2010.

David Willetts has made it clear that he will move to create a further education funding council in place of the existing quangos as soon as possible after the election, should the Tories win.