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Sector News, 15 - 19 November 2010

New strategy for vocational skills.  Education Guardian, 16 November 2010.

John Hayes, the minister for business and skills, has a vision of skilled craftspeople enjoying the same status as bank managers or lawyers.  The minister wants to rebrand the sector skills councils as “guilds”, which whilst sounding 'middle ages' would, he believes, offer prestige to its members.   He is also working with the Prince of Wales to develop a new Prince’s award for excellence in crafts.  Hayes believes that apprenticeships are seen as inferior to degrees because there is little room for progression and he wants to explore the possibility of different levels of attainment within the apprenticeship system in order to include more level 4 and level 5 qualifications.  He refuses to accept that recent government cuts, particularly to the over 24s and 25s, might discourage many from learning.  John Hays also believes that the idea of an apprenticeship loan is a good one.

Tuition fees: widening the gap between England and Scotland.  Education Guardian, 16 November 2010.

It is likely that Scottish and English universities will take paths which are divergent, the English universities wanting more and more money from their students whilst Scottish universities are likely to contiue with free tuition.  The numbers of Scottish students in English universities started to fall after the introduction of tuition fees. As the trend for increased fees continues it is likely that fewer and fewer Scottish students will attend English universities.  The concern is that if fewer student from north of the border attend English institutions it will merely increase the cultural divide between the two nations.

In the near distance, liberation.  THE, 18 November 2010.

The previous government set up the Online Learning Task Force with the aim to make UK higher education the first choice for online distance learning worldwide. Now, research by the University of Oxford suggests that there are 2,600 online distance-learning courses in the UK.  “They offer obvious benefits to people who want to work while pursuing qualifications. They also offer the promise of economic salvation to hard-pressed universities. However, they are no financial quick fix.”

Digital 'deviants' and the spirit of '68'.  THE, 18 November 2010.

Paul Humphrey argues that the proliferation of on-line courses offers opportunities to academics.  He refers in his article to the unrest caused in Paris in the 1960s when the university of Paris-X Nanterre hired lecturers on contract.  The resident academics saw this as an attack on the established order of French academic life.  Now, Paul Humphrey claims that we have reached such a cross roads again with the growth of on-line learning.  He argues that “lecturers have the luxury of work that is as portable as a laptop”, thus enabling them to undertake research without recourse to grants and sabbaticals.  He further argues that on-line lecturing is cheap, offers scholarly independence and if the university cannot afford to support the lecturers all through their career they can hire them on contract.  Included in a long article, are a set of ideas for success on line, short studies of the University of Essex and the Open University’s provision, the way one lecturer juggles her role as a musician and distance learning lecturer and comments on the UK’s aims for global pre-eminence.

New market, new rules: NUS signals consumer revolution.  THE, 18 November 2010.

Students need new regulators who have to protect students from "collusion" on fee levels and to impose penalties for malpractice and maladministration.  This is the view of the National Union of Students (NUS) who say that universities and regulatory bodies are totally unprepared for a consumer driven market.

Unit closure is a 'slap in the face' for expert staff.  THE, 18 November 2010.

Write Now Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the London Met’s centre that supports students, the Learning Development Unit, are facing closure.  A spokeswoman for the university said that the closures have arisen from long standing issues including the withdrawal of external funding.

Fear of funding gap leads Scots to rethink fees policy.  THE, 18 November 2010.

A meeting between Scottish ministers and universities is to be held following the publication of a Universities of Scotland paper calling for graduate contributions.  Fears of a widening fund gap between England and Scotland have forced a rethink of Scottish policy on tuition fees.

Moving teacher training from universities will ‘risk quality’.  THE, 18 November 2010.

The head of the University Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) believes that Michael Gove is wrong to want teacher training moved from universities to schools.  This move, according to James Noble-Rogers, will almost certainly lead to a loss of quality in teacher training provision.  The UCET chief executive said that UCET do not believe that the government understands how heavily schools are already involved in teacher training.

Market shifts mean a bleak future for business schools.  THE, 18 November 2010.

Kai Peters, chief executive of the Ashbridge Business School, believes that MBA courses and entire business schools will close as universities struggle to carve out a future for business education.  Mr Peters is of the opinion that what students require from business schools is in sharp contrast to the research needs of universities.

Features in this week’s THE:

History in the faking is Matthew Reisz’s piece on the writers of historical fiction and how academics could gain from discussions with these authors.

Masterclass in engagement”, Mark Damazer draws some parallels between his new job as a master at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, with his old job as Radio 4 controller.

The Arts.

There are three main articles in this week’s arts section.  “In the nature of things” Duncan Wu looks at Arcimboldo’s portraits, under “day time TV”, “Losing everything”, there is a discussion about Penny Woolcock’s “On the Streets”, Richard Miles’ “Ancient Worlds” and “Accused”.   “Under the influence” comments on “High-Society: Mind-altering Drugs in History and Culture” at the Wellcome Collection, London.

Gove serves notice on teacher training.  TES, 19 November 2010.

Michael Gove, the education secretary, will announce next week his overhaul of teacher training.  He is looking to move teacher training away from universities and into schools as well as reform the Bed and PGCE.  Mr Gove sees teaching as a craft better learned at work. The secretary believes that the best teachers are academic and schooled in pedagogy but he insists that whilst teaching requires great intellect there are those who may not have been the most gifted at university but are capable of real engagement in the classroom.

See also “Gove tight lipped, but relishes prospect of next landmark reform”.

Warning that DIY marking in Chinese and Urdu could hit GCSE entries. TES, 19 November 2010.

Urdu and Chinese GCSE examinations will in future have to have an oral component.  Urdu and Chinese along with Japanese and Arabic did not have to have the oral component but the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) insists that they are brought in line with other modern languages.  Schools say that the proposals are not well thought through as schools do not generally have staff who can speak these languages and schools fear that they will see a drop in the number of pupils taking these GCSEs.   However an Urdu teacher in the north on England says that they use recorded tapes of student speaking to parents or volunteers and hence, the new rules should not be impossible to implement.

Solo skills agency will 'simplify' FE funding.  TES, FE Focus, 19 November 2010.

The Skills Funding Agency will provide all the money for 16-19 education as well as adult education. John Hayes, the FE minister, has said that he will lobby for equal funding for teenagers in schools and colleges.  John Hayes sees the new funding body as a simplification of the administration of post-sixteen budgets.

Ministers accused of distorting research in haste to axe EMA.  TES, FE Focus, 19 November 2010.

College leaders and students do not believe the government’s claim that the education maintenance allowance (EMA) was a waste of money.  The Association of Colleges (AoC) have accused the government of making decisions based on selective research.  They, amongst others in FE, say that the EMA is important for low income families and that without it many will not be able to afford the costs of college courses.

See also editorial "For the poor, the EMA cut is the deepest".