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Sector News, 15 - 19 February 2010

What keeps prisoners from learning?  Education Guardian, 16 February 2010.

Prisoners wanting to undertake education whilst inside face huge barriers.  Many prisoners are transferred from prison to prison making continuity difficult. For those on short sentences the opportunity to complete a course of study is negligible, yet, prisoners who serve less than 12 months tend to be the ones with the lowest educational levels.  A National Skills Forum report “Doing Things Differently” highlights the difficulties faced by prisoners.  One of the recommendations of the forum is that education be made integral to sentencing.

Radical measures to bridge gap between supply and demand.  THE, 18 February 2010.

There has been a 23 per cent increase in applications for university places this year.  The increase has produced some creative thinking by vice-chancellors, faced with increased demand and less Government funding.  One suggestion is that 100,000 places are offered without additional funding, another that rich students be offered the opportunity to pay international student fees thus bypassing the cap on numbers.

Defenders of the academy?  More like the status quo, says Lord Mandelson.  THE, 18 February 2010.

In a speech at Nottingham University, Lord Mandelson attacked those who say the impending Government cuts to HE funding will bring the sector to its knees.  Lord Mandelson argued that the resistance to cuts is about keeping the status quo, when the discussion should be about how universities can become more efficient and how they can meet the needs of modern society.

Foreigners flock to academic-literacy lessons.  THE, 18 February 2010.

Northumbria University has seen a five-fold increase in attendance in its academic literacy classes.  The Newcastle Business School redesigned the academic support sessions to make them directly relevant to what overseas students are doing in lectures.

Scholars welcome proposals for ‘serendipitous spaces'.  THE, 18 February 2010.

Despite the digitising of learning, academics want face to face contact with their students.  There is a belief that people meeting in a room produce better outcomes than those who study by digital means alone.

‘Frankenstein’ monsters loom as universities lose control of content.  THE, 18 February 2010.

Universities are not producing coherent websites and often the sites are difficult to navigate and open to too many contributors.   Precedent, a digital marketing consultancy, says that institutions lack digital governance, the result being incoherent and potentially damaging to a university’s reputation.  

A student’s right to know.  THE, 18 February 2010.

Universities have been asked by the Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance to explain how the sector has enhanced the student experience. There is a view that universities have not provided accurate and accessible information about the nature of the academic experience. 

Major features in this week’s THE:

Raise your game”, an article by Amanda Goodall offering 20 steps for universities to climb up the league tables.

Reason to live”, the cultivation of Socratic traits and methods to develop clear and rational thought.

Beyond the  boundaries”, reflections on Houseman and Elgar.

£250m spent on most deprived pupils fails to improve results.  TES, 19 February 2010.

Research conducted by Oxford University suggests that far from supporting the education of poor pupils, targeted Government spending has done little to change the status quo.  The researchers argue that in some instances, for example Indian pupils, Government sponsored schemes have done more harm than good.

The year just 45 free-meal pupils got to Oxbridge.  TES, 19 February 2010.

The Conservative Party claim to have figures that show just 45 out of 81,100 pupils in receipt of free school meals obtained places at Oxford or Cambridge and only 1 per cent went on to study at one of the Russell Group universities. 

See also:We can’t let cuts curb the aspirations of the young where the comment is more in support of Government strategy (up to now).

157 Group: ‘inefficient’ small school sixth forms must go.  TES, FE Focus, 18 February 2010.

A policy paper issued by the 157 Group of Colleges argues that colleges are “Able to deliver economies of scale, educational opportunities and facilities beyond the reach of small sixth forms”.  It is the group’s view that small school sixth forms are inefficient and costly.

Jobs may be Neets’ best option at 16, says report.  TES, FE Focus, 18 February 2010.

Neets would be better off starting work than being forced in to staying in education until they are 17 or 18, says the Association of Learning Providers.  The association believes that the Government is not interested in creating a situation where 16 year olds can get jobs and the policy risks forcing people into qualifications that they may not be ready for.