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Sector News, 15 - 19 June 2009

Education and business hand in hand.  Education Guardian, 16 June 2009.

One of four articles commenting on the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, whose job it is to set policy for universities and further education.  This article states the views of Lord Mandelson.

Lord Mandelson comments that:

  • the mission of the new department is to build up the nation's resource of skills
  • investment in universities has produced a sector drawing from 1%  of the world's population but providing 5% of its scientific research
  • the department is committed to protecting the UK’s share of international students
  • universities contribute £45bn to the UK’s economy
  • apprenticeships need to be expanded
  • colleges provide for their local community and need to maintain services to deliver the skills British people need during their working lives
  • universities should not lose their fundamental drive for science or curiosity-driven research
  • the public are wrong to assume that because HE and FE have been placed in a department for business that their basic educational role will be diminished.

How long will this one last?  Education Guardian, 16 June 2009.

Analysis, Mike Baker.

Mike Baker wonders how long the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will last, considering that the last department, DIUS, only lasted two years. 


Will colleges be neglected?  Education Guardian, 16 June 2009.

Being placed in a department that has fifteen responsibilities, further education (and higher education) are concerned that they will not get the consideration that DIUS gave them.


Don’t overlook adults’ passion for learning.  Education Guardian, 16 June 2009.

Comment, David Blunkett MP.

David Blunkett outlines his reasons for supporting adult education.  Investing in education "can transform lives, foster dignity, confidence and capability...”.  He is concerned that recent DIUS moves to support adult education will now be lost.


First catch your teenager.  Education Guardian, 16 June 2009.

School pupils who attend university summer schools nearly always say that they had a good experience.  However, the numbers attending summer schools is in steady decline, put down not to what is on offer, but to the pressure school teachers face sorting out the ‘wheat from the chaff’.


 Plan eyes incentives to help the economy.  THE, 18 June 2009.

The higher education framework due to be published soon is expected to include measures to encourage higher education to take a more active role in addressing higher level skill areas.  There is speculation of incentives for tackling skills gaps and incentives for students to take skills courses at a discount.    Coming in the face of criticism of the Government’s poor track record of ‘guessing’ where skills shortages will occur, universities are not at all sure that this is an approach higher education should welcome.  


A levels are failing students, says think-tank.  THE, 18 June 2009.

A report issued this week concludes that students are less capable of independent study than they were fifteen years ago.  Elizabeth Truss, deputy director of Reform, says “Students are being let down by the A-level system.  They are not developing what they really need: a spirit of independent inquiry and confidence that will set them up for university and later life”.


Lecturers talk of students’ ‘shocking’ abuse.  THE, 18 June 2009.

Harassment of lecturers appears to be wide ranging and far from uncommon.  In this article, lecturers give examples of abuse which range from the offer of sexual favours, attacks via the web and bad behaviour linked to alcohol and drug abuse.

See also: "Tutors taunted".


Gagging clause prevents inquiry into standards.  THE, 18 June 2009.

There are compromise agreements which are preventing investigations by QAA into allegations of plagiarism.  Lecturers have signed agreements ensuring that they will not give information to outside agencies.


Crossing borders can lead to gold – but so can digging deep.  THE, 18 June 2009.

Opinion: Robert A Segal, Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen.

Robert Segal argues that whilst interdisciplinary study is advantageous it is not the only way to advance knowledge.  He argues that the further you go in studying, specialisation becomes impossible to avoid.  Furthermore, he suggests, not all interdisciplinary mergers succeed, citing the failure of the unifying discipline ‘social relations’.


Funding deal puts teacher training at risk.  TES, 19 June 2009.

Changes in university funding which has seen a redistribution of funds towards science departments and away from humanities could severely affect universities’ ability to continue with teacher training courses.  The cuts have been felt most strongly at the Institute of Education in London, placing it in significant financial difficulty.  Liverpool University has already shed its primary teacher training course and there are concerns that more universities will follow suit.


Register planned to bust bogus colleges.  TES, FE Focus, 19 June 2009.

The Government is looking to restrict the use of the word “College” and is considering creating a register to stop bogus institutions from using the name.  There are establishments which call themselves colleges which have been exposed as securing study visas for migrant immigrants.

(Reported in FE Focus, 08 May, "Campaign to protect college title from fakes").


Review calls for free basic computer training for all.  TES, FE Focus, 19 June 2009.

Despite the LSC writing to colleges stating that there is likely to be a large shortfall in funding next year, Niace has backed a call for free computer classes for adults.   Niace argue that the cost to the economy of not having a computer-literate population is far greater than the cost of training.


Slow dawning that 14-19 changes demand greater collaboration.  TES, FE Focus, 19 June 2009.

If one message was made clear to those attending the Learning and Skills Network’s debate last week it is that 14-19 education will demand greater collaboration than exists at present.  If as expected, no one institution will be able to provide the full range of educational opportunities for its pupils, a move away from institutional autonomy is required.  However, parents and educational establishments worry about the local authorities' ability to manage 14-19 education. In a Learning and Skills Network poll, only 14.8% of parents thought that local authorities would do a better job than those currently in charge of 14-19 provision.