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Sector News, 14 - 15 March 2011

Wolf review won't save non-academic pupils. Education Guardian, 15 March 2011.

As Mike Baker reports, “the problem of what to do with non-academic pupils has taxed policy makers for 50 years”. The constant changing of initiatives has left a confusing picture of vocational qualifications, many, according to Wolf, not fit for purpose. However, the call for English and mathematics at GCSE is pointless if past experience of failed government attempts to ensure that youngsters obtain these qualifications are considered. Sadly current moves appear to be moving towardstheremoval of the Diploma which even with faults promised much more to young people than insisting on qualifications that they believe are not for them. Mike Baker adds that functional skills, whilst not without their faults, were brought in with the Diploma because it was thought that GCSE English and maths did not provide the sort of skills that employers want.

Can private schools train teachers for the state sector? Education Guardian, 15 March 2011.

When the National College holds its conference on the Government’s plans to move teacher training into schools later this month there will be about 900 schools interested in bidding for the honour. Amongst these will be private schools who believe that they have a lot to offer the state sector when it comes to training teachers. “To be successful, independent schools will need to have been deemed to have extensive and successful links with state schools”. Nevertheless, it is thought that candidates for teacher training who want to teach in the state sector may wonder whether the experience in teaching in a private school is all that relevant.

Tuition fees plague the government. Education Guardian, 15 March 2011.

It is highly likely that despite the tuition fee hike, demand for university places will outstrip the number of places available. If this proves to be true then the Government will have difficulty keeping a cap on student numbers on top of the difficulties it is facing trying to prevent universities from charging the £9,000 ceiling for fees.

Axe falls on forensics students. Education Guardian, 15 March 2011.

Partly through the popularity of TV shows like “Silent Witness” and “CSI” the numbers of applicants for Forensic Science courses at university has risen considerably. For example, the demand for Portsmouth’s criminology and forensics course has risen by 13 per cent this year. Unfortunately for many of these students the announcement of the Government’s intention to close its Forensic Science Service has thrown the career aspirations of many of these students into turmoil.

Hefce shows how the axe will be wielded. THE, 17 March 2011.

Universities will see their recurrent grants fall next year, while total reductions between now and 2012-13 will be around 13 per cent. Some establishments will be spared drastic cuts as Hefce have brought in £30 million of its moderation fund which it uses to support rapid transition of cuts.

The full range of allocations can be found using the following links:

Allocations 1, Allocations 2.

See also: “Post-92s hit hardest by quality-related shake-up” which explains how the new universities will be hit the hardest in terms of their research grants.

'Life depends on science but the arts make it worth living'. THE, 17 March 2011.

According to John Martin, director of University College London's Centre for Cardiovascular Biology and Medicine, the arts are "superior” to science. “Professor Martin said medicine was taught in a way that brutalised young doctors. Without an understanding of the humanities, they could not be truly creative or fully understand the infinite value of every human being".

Overseas degree standard warning. THE, 17 March 2011.

An audit team run by QAA has said that it has limited confidence in Liverpool’s John Moore University to deliver its overseas qualifications. Whilst being satisfied about standards within the Liverpool site it has recommended that the university takes more care about its overseas work.

Worst cases and fee levels are on the agendas. THE, 17 March 2011.

Newcastle University is considering the risk that student numbers could fall by up to 15 per cent when the tuition-fee cap rises. The university is doubtful whether student numbers will remain the same when the cap rises to £9,000. The University of Westminster, a former polytechnic, has said that it will charge fees above £6,000.

Austerity will usher in new technological age, v-c says. THE, 17 March 2011

Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol and the next president of Universities UK, predicts that falling budgets will force a revolution in the use of IT within the academy. .His argument is based on the premise that university fee income will not keep pace with cuts and this will force universities to become more efficient in their use of funding.

Globalisation: contents and discontents. THE, 17 March 2011.

A panel of experts at the British Council's Going Global conference in Hong Kong last week said that higher education should no longer be dominated by western needs. They argued that Asia, Africa and Latin America should become equal partners in schemes and that foreign students should not be seen as mere units to be manipulated.

UUK head: cuts reality 'rather different to the headline. THE, 17 March 2011

Professor Steve Smith, vice chancellor of the University of Exeter, says that the cuts to university funding are not as bad as the media would have us believe. In this he echoed David Willetts’ comments that universities were likely to see a standstill and maybe even a growth in budgets over the coming years. Professor Smith is concerned that the media are damaging the UK’s reputation overseas.

Feature in this week’s THE.

Our job is to judge”: Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at University of Kent, uses this lengthy article to explain why scholars must never lose the freedom to exercise judgment and why they should never be governed by procedures.

Tales of the unexpected”: Matthew Reisz argues that there is no such thing as a typical academic. Matthew looks at a few startling stories covering the background of some academics.

The Arts. THE, 17 March 2011.

Clive Bloom ponders the lasting popularity of theWizard of Oz” in his articleHello Yellow Brick Road”. Duncan Wu’s film review,You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger covers Woody Allen’s film of the same title. TheWonders of the Universeis Gary Day’s TV slot in which he talks about Brian Cox’s highly successful programmes on the universe.

Labour demands rethink on EMA. TES, 18 March 2011.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham is demanding that the government rethinks its strategy on the Education Maintenance Grant. Andy Burnham says that removing the grant will seriously affect many young people’s chances of further education.

Ministers' plan for elite: forget GCSE and go straight to A-level. TES, 18 March 2011.

The government is considering allowing state schools to fast track their brightest pupils to A level without having to take GCSE. Under review is also a strengthening of the English Bacc and the introduction of an accelerated Bacc to reward schools who make the move to A level entry.

Oxford reveals fees for poorer students. TES, 18 march 2011.

Oxford University has declared that it will only charge first year students from poorer backgrounds £3,500 for the tuition fees for 2012.

Don't forget the good amid the bad and ugly. TES, FE Focus, 18 March 2011.

Comment: Alison Fuller and Lorna Unwin, professors at the LLAKES Centre at Southampton University’s Institute of Education

Alison and Lorna decry the lack of coverage of good quality vocational education in the Wolf Report. They point out that the majority of comments have focused on the fact that less than 50 per cent of 19 year olds have GCSE English and maths at grade C and the reports condemnation of low level vocational qualifications. The two professors make a number of points:

· The review has little to say about how we might build on good-quality vocational education.

· There is no effort to explain what new programmes might look like and who would design them.

· Whist more freedoms are advocated for schools, colleges and training providers to offer the qualifications they want students should be able to choose the programme they take, with the funding following the student.

· How these freedoms will ensure or improve quality and consistency of provision is unclear.

· The review recognises the importance of apprenticeships for young people and the high demand for the “best” apprenticeships. Yet it has nothing to say about the continued variability of quality within apprenticeships.

· The review was commissioned and launched by the Department for Education, despite the fact that most of the problems that vocational education has to address all fall under the remit of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.