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Sector News, 14 - 18 February 2011

Job anguish for immigrants as English language courses face cuts.  The Observer, 13 February 2011, reported on Guardian Website 14 February.

At a time when the prime minister is calling for immigrants to learn English, the funding for English language classes is to be cut.  The move appears particularly odd in light of David Cameron’s recent statements that multiculturalism has failed and that one of the primary causes is a lack of English amongst immigrants.

Young people are already turning their backs on university.  Education Guardian, 14 February 2011.

Despite record application figures, there is growing evidence that 18 year olds are finding the prospects of apprenticeships more attractive than three years at university.  Should this trend continue then universities are likely to find themselves ‘squeezed’ of cash in future years.

Royal Society calls for A-level overhaul to tackle decline in science students.  Education Guardian, 15 February 2011.

The Royal Society says that too few 16-18 year olds are taking the two science and mathematics subjects required to gain entry to university science degrees and that there are a growing number of schools which do not offer A level physics at all.  The society wants the A level system overhauled to become more in line with the baccalaureate style of education where students obtain a wider range of education than is available with the three A level system currently in use.

Postgraduate subject tables 2011.  Education Guardian, 15 February 2011.

This week the Guardian has published its guide to postgraduate subjects.  On the Education Guardian web site there is:

Plan your lessons with the Guardian Teacher Network.  Education Guardian, 15 February 2011.

“The paper has announced that it is to open up its resources website to give teachers free access to 70,000 pages of lesson plans and interactive teaching materials.”  Access to materials can be obtained free at  You will have to register with Guardian and the activities are school based.  However, it is organised by subject and you might find some useful information/activities.

Colleges must become job brokers.  Education Guardian, 15 February 2011.

Colleges are used to being paid by results, a large proportion of their funding coming from qualifications earned at the end of a student’s course.  Initial start up funding for a course can be as little as 40 per cent of the total funding available. “Under the Work Programme, which will replace Flexible New Deal and other welfare-to-work schemes this summer, just 10% of money will be paid upfront”.  There is a growing trend requiring training providers to find jobs for learners as well as teach them skills and the final tranche of funding will only paid if the student remains in employment for eighteen months.  All this will undoubtedly increase the pressure on colleges to become employment brokers as well as put further strain on their funding.

Access Agreements – News.  THE, 17 February 2011.

Today’s paper has a number of articles on the Government’s attempts to ensure that universities consider taking students from underrepresented groups.

Tough talk on ensuring fair access to elite”: Vince Cable, the business secretary, and David Willetts, the universities minister, have criticised selective universities for making "inadequate" progress on admitting more students from poor backgrounds and call for "much more determined action".  Within a letter from the Office of Fair Access (Offa), the two ministers also make suggestions about offering students from disadvantaged backgrounds a place at university even if they have lower standard qualifications.  The letter also makes it obvious that the government will set a lot of store by what it calls “contextual data”.  There is a sanction which can be imposed by OFFA if universities charge over £6,000 entry fees without answering the issues of widening participation.  Critics, however, say that the letter is more about saving money than opening up access.

Too few will benefit from ‘risible’ scholarship plan”.  The National Union of Students (NUS) has stated that the government is misleading the public over its plans to reach three-quarters of students on full maintenance grants in its National Scholarship Scheme.  The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has said that he expects students who had received free school meals could get up to two free years at university.  As the plans have become more understood, it appears that universities who have to sign up to the scheme if they charge over £6,000, will only have to consider first year students and the definition of poor is to be left up to them.

Justify charging £9K fees or lose research cash or places, v-cs warn”.  The government has warned vice chancellors that if they do not justify demanding fees at the high end of the scale they will risk losing research funding.  A source has told the THE  that science intensive universities have been reminded of their reliance on research funding whilst teaching intensive universities have been told that their allocated student numbers could be under threat.   

See also Leader: “Count the collateral damage”.

 LSE gender studies gives lie to narrative of loss.  THE, 17 February 2011.

Clare Hemmings, director of the Gender institute at the London School of Economics, explains how her department has grown and how the demand for gender studies keeps on increasing.

‘F’ for ‘effort’.  THE, 17 February 2011.

Opinion: Harriet Jones, Kay Yeoman and Helen James, senior lecturers in the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia.

The three lecturers discuss the use of the word effort in feedback to students.  Whist many lecturers see the word as a positive statement, it appears that many students see it as negative or patronising.

Britain needs talentopolis.  THE, 17 February 2011.

Opinion, Jonathan Wright, researcher at The Work Foundation.

Jonathan believes that universities have a key role to play in creating hubs of enterprise and employment.  He argues that university graduates are the key group in driving successful economies.  A comparison is made between the US and Britain. The US has places such as Boston where there is a high concentration of high calibre graduates from universities such a Harvard and MIT, but in Britain graduates are generally more mobile and universities generally have a weaker effect on local economic well being.

Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey.  THE, 17 February 2011.

Rebecca Attwood looks at how young people can get what they need to make an informed choice about university.  The article contains a listing of universities, in rank order, created from the "THE Student Experience Survey". The point is made that if fees rise by as much as expected, students will demand more information to ensure that they make the correct decisions before committing themselves to debt.  The tables rank scores across a wide range of responses on items such as quality of lectures, social life, staff support and industry links.  To support the tables there is a discussion on what the various components mean.

Other features in this week’s THE.

Panel Games”: Amanda Goodall argues that the US Ivy league’s insistence on avoiding interviews when filling staff posts should be adopted at home.  Richard J. Evans disagrees with Amanda’s arguments even though he was appointed to a chair at Cambridge without any face-to-face contact.

The Arts.  THE, 17 February 2011.

Greenland is a climate change play at the National Theatre, which according to Graham Farmelo (By-Fellow at Churchill College Cambridge), fails to entertain or inform.  Duncan Wu looks at the film “Fair Game”, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, which is on current release in the USA.  He comments that the “thriller based on real events in Bush’s White House [is] more compelling than fiction”.  Gary Day’s daytime TV slot, “Crossing Continents” reports on the BBC 2’s “The Chinese are Coming”, a documentary plotting the steady growth of Chinese influence in Africa.

Heads vie for share of ‘teaching school’ funds.  TES, 18 February 2011.

The Government desire to establish 500 teaching schools by 2015 is a major feature of its overhaul of teacher training.  £72 million has been put on the table for schools to apply for teaching school status. To date more than 800 schools have expressed an interest in the scheme.

Attack of the clones: plagiarism by university applicants soars.  TES, 18 February 2011.

The Ucas description of personal statements is that they are a chance for applicants to university to stand out from the crowd. However, last year saw nearly 30,000 applicants who sent in personal statements that the Ucas similarity detection service flagged up as copied. 

These reckless PGCE cuts have left students in limbo – and college-based training in crisis.  TES, 18 February 2011.

Insight: Dr Bethan Marshall senior Lecturer at King’s College London.

Applications for PGCE places have been on going since October last year without the universities knowing how many students they could accept.  In fact the numbers to be accepted have only just been given and with the rider that only if an applicant has chosen one of the science, maths, engineering or modern foreign language courses they will not receive a bursary.  Hence, applicants have had to wait for four months to have their place confirmed and in some cases to find out that they have to pay fees for the PGCE course.  The situation is worse for RE courses which have had their student numbers cut by 45 per cent leaving King’s College tutors the unenviable task of having to tell 8 applicants that the place they thought they had is no longer available.  Dr Marshall is angry at the way these cuts have been handled.

Esol cuts ‘not thought through’, claims Niace.  TES, FE Focus, 18 February 2011.

Niace (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education), has warned that the cuts to Esol funding could have devastating effects on students who are trying to integrate into our society.  The Government promised a review on the likely effects of the cuts but Niace says that the review is stuck in the minister’s office and they worry that the Government is going back on its word to look at a process which Niace says has not been thought through.

Record youth unemployment but councils to scrap Connexions.  TES, FE Focus, 18 February 2011.

Nearly 36 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds in Lewisham are unemployed which is the highest figure in the UK.  Nevertheless, Lewisham is considering scrapping Connexions before a replacement career service is in place.  The council says that it expects to save £1.5 million in grant to Connexions and believes that schools and colleges can give the careers advice required.

IfL’s fee hike bid undermined as survey shows lack of confidence.  TES, FE Focus, 18 February 2011.

Of more than 900 college lecturers surveyed by the University and College Union, almost two thirds supported the concept of a professional body but less than one fifth believed that the IfL was doing a good job.   

Why students are the new loss adjusters.  TES, FE Focus, 18 February 2011.

The abolition of a raft of subsidies for students, the most important being the education maintenance allowance (EMA), will inevitably cut the number of students attending colleges of FE.   As an example of the possible difficulties to be faced the paper focuses on Walsall College where sixty per cent of the students receive EMA, yet despite the obvious disadvantages faced by students the college manages to be in the country’s top ten per cent for attainment.