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Sector News, 13 - 17 October 2008

Meddling in the modern apprenticeship.  Education Guardian, 14 October 2008.

A study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has concluded that apprenticeships are little more than another scheme for meeting government targets.  ESRC complain that the government are interfering with the design and content of the apprenticeships which is leading to a narrowing of the education and training on offer to young people.


Three steps to help improve access to higher education.  Education Guardian, 14 October 2008.

Comment – Kevin Whitston head of widening participation, Hefce.

Kevin Whitston outlines the three steps he (and hence Hefce) consider necessary to widen participation in universities.  Namely:

  • embedding of widening participation as a mainstream commitment in higher education,
  • support work universities and colleges do with schools and embed good practice,
  • work with communities.

Sheffield Brightside, Birmingham Hodge Hill, Nottingham North and Bristol South are cited as good examples of community work.


Slam, dunk, and the scholarship is yours.  Education Guardian, 14 October 2008.

Sport at the University of Worcester is seen as a way of widening participation.  The university is considering a US style sports bursary to attract students who would not normally apply to university, with the proviso that the students are academically capable.


Remote control.  Education Guardian, 14 October 2008.

Whilst primarily an advertisement for distance learning, this article has some interesting web sites, for example Learndirect and BBC as well as some advice on taking a distance learning course.


Plea for input in development of 14-19 diplomas.  THE, 16 October 2008.

Sir Mike Tomlinson told a conference last week that universities must become involved in the development of the 14-19 diplomas and to ensure that subject knowledge is not sacrificed to application.  Sir Mike Tomlinson’s view is that for 14-19 year olds, vocational qualifications, GCSEs and A levels could be phased out and replaced by the diploma.  A view expressed by Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, who has said that diplomas could replace A levels as the qualification of choice.


Shift could endanger foundation.  THE, 16 October 2008.

The government stands accused of failing to solicit the views of universities when it offered colleges the opportunity offer their own foundation degrees.  “Any move to cut universities out of the equation could undermine foundation degrees.  They need the credibility that only universities can supply” (Universities UK).  If higher education does not keep its award giving powers then employers and parents might shun the new degrees.


Trust and transparency are frowned upon while degree inflation soars.  THE, 16 October 2008.

“The QAA’s promotion of bureaucratic centralisation cannot go unchecked-reform is needed”, says Terence Kealy, vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham.  Last year Buckingham awarded 43% firsts or 2:1s, in 1998 this figure was 39%, and nationally firsts and 2:1s have risen from 45% to 60%. Terence sees this as an example of how the QAA influence has led to degree inflation leading eventually to a loss of reputation for universities. 


Fight or flight.  THE, 16 October 2008.

A major article in this week's THE looks at the tensions building between universities and further education colleges being generated by the awarding of foundation degrees. New foundation degree awarding powers were given to FE under the Further Education and Training Act.  Universities are unlikely to support colleges who go down the road of awarding their own foundation degrees and they feel that students may lose out when the close ties between higher education and FE are broken.  Needless to say that FE takes a different view arguing that these new students are not ones which universities would normally attract, presumably arguing against the competitive issue.


Respect for marks.  THE, 16 October 2008.

Sally Brown explores assessment from her own perspective and experiences and argues that “well designed assessment is one of pedagogy’s greatest tools”.  Sally Brown is provost and pro-vice chancellor, assessment, learning and teaching, Leeds Metropolitan University.


It's tougher than Oxbridge.  TES, FE Focus, 17 October 2008.

Getting to Oxbridge can be easier than getting an apprenticeship.  Employers are not offering sufficient apprenticeship places making these amongst the hardest courses to join.


‘Forced training means more drop out’.  TES, FE Focus, 17 October 2008.

Instead of persuading the group of students not in education, employment or training to ‘join up’ to study, plans to force them into education and/or training could have the opposite effect.  The inquiry, by the Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education has concluded that forcing young people to attend courses was likely to fail.  In addition employers may not wish to participate because of the training costs and teenagers will resent going back to college.


Rebalance the adult learning scales.  TES, FE Focus, 17 October 2008. Opinion- Paul Mackay director of NIACE.

Once high in the international league tables for adult education, the UK is now a shadow of its former self having lost 1.5 million course places over the last two years.  Paul Mackay puts the blame for this at the feet of a government who have removed considerable amounts of funding from adult education for schemes like “Train to Gain”.  To make matters worse, the shortfall from Train to Gain was not used in adult education, but to shore up a shortfall in HE.