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Sector News, 16 - 20 March 2009

Should they stay or should they go?  Education Guardian, 17 March 2009.

Sixth form colleges will have their ties to the further education sector cut when the apprenticeship reform bill passes through parliament.  From the time the bill is passed, sixth form colleges will be neither schools nor further education colleges, they will become a ‘sector’ on their own.   Last week 97 sixth form colleges decided to appoint a chief executive for the Sixth Form College Forum (SFCF).    The forum will decide on the future vision and purpose of the new sixth form sector.  The Association of Colleges (AoC) is keen to keep sixth form colleges as members amid fears that the FE sector may start to fragment.

What I see is mere activity masquerading as learning.  Education Guardian, 17 March 2009. Opinion: Rosemary Clarke, education consultant and formerly quality manager at the AoC.

Whilst Rosemary is convinced of the importance of active learning, she wonders whether some of the activity gives an illusion of learning but fails to develop understanding.  Singled out for scepticism, is the idea that group work is a valuable tool for sharing and improving understanding. 

£2,000 rise in university tuition fees 'would not deter students'.  The Guardian, 17 March 2009.

University UK have concluded in a recent report that university tuition fees should rise to £6,500.  This would effectively raise the student debt level to over £32,000, claims the NUS.   The UUK report states that £5,000 per year is required to keep the status quo.  However, £7,000 is nearer university requirements but this would certainly have an effect on applications.

The story is also reported in, “University tuition fees 'need to rise to £6,500'”, Daily Telegraph andUniversities 'must double annual fees to £6,500'”, The Independent, and “Unions attack plans to double tuition fees” in The Times, all of 17 March 2009.

Also in the THE of 19 March 2009: £5,000-a-year fees will not hit demand, UUK claims. 

Universities UK claim that raising tuition fees to £5,000 will have no effect on student demand for higher education.  In a new report, UUK offers eight scenarios under which fee increases can be achieved.  The scenarios are shown in the article and the media release of the report , Changing Landscapes: Future Scenarios for Variable Tuition Fees, can be obtained using the link.

Lifelong crisis spreads as ELQ decision forces further closures.  THE, 19 March 2009.

Government funding decisions are forcing more universities to cut back on lifelong learning courses.  Both the University of Bristol and University of Reading have cited the Government’s rule denying students funding to study for equivalent or lower level qualifications as the reason for removing some of their continuing education courses.

Recently reported under  “Lifelong learning threatened by funding change”.  THE, 12 March 2009, WMCETT news 09 -13 March.

Lecturers hit back at efforts to discredit grade-inflation claims.  THE, 19 March 2009.

The two lecturers who told a parliamentary committee about grade inflation have reacted angrily to their universities moves to discredit their claims. (See “85% failure rate was ‘appropriate’, but marks were raised”.  THE, 05 March 2009, WMCETT news 02 - 06 March).  The University claimed that the abnormally high failure rate on one of the courses (which had marks raised after 85% of the students failed) was due to poor teaching.  The lecturers claim that the university is factually incorrect, that one lecturer accused of poor teaching has never had his teaching discussed.  Concerning university comments that marks were only changed with internal examiners permission, the second lecturer denies that this was the case. 

The A* offer is already here: Cambridge demands 90%.  TES, 20 March 2009.

Some Cambridge colleges are said to be using the A-level A* grade for entry to the university by insisting on a 90% score in final A2 exams for at least one A level subject.  The Government through the National Council for Educational Excellence has advised universities to allow the A* system to bed in before being used as a guide for applications.  Last month, universities were reported to be lining up to say that they would not touch the A* grade as it favoured independent schools.

See also: “Failing to make the grade over the new A*”. Comment by Geoff Lucas, Secretary, Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference.

Colleges to ask for cheap loans to restart building.  TES, FE Focus, 20 March 2009.

Over the past few weeks a major news story has been the suspension by the LSC of funding for new college buildings.  Now the principals from all 144 colleges affected by the funding logjam have been invited to a meeting organised by the Association of Colleges, (AoC), to find a solution to the crisis.  A possible solution is for colleges to approach the councils for loans at preferential interest rates.

Apprentices to earn Ucas points for progression to degree studies.  TES, FE Focus, 10 March 2009.

On Wednesday, the Skills Commission stated that apprentices should be allowed Ucas points to help more students to progress to university and that more part time HE courses were needed. 

Surge for extra places blows £65m hole in 16-19 budget.  TES, FE Focus, 20 March 2009.

Student enrolment was not expected to rise next year and the Government planned for a standstill budget.  However, the current economic climate has created a surge in demand for an extra 13,000 places, 3,000 of which are needed in school sixth forms where numbers were expected to decline.  The extra places and the lack of funding to support them has created difficulties for college planning.

Hi-tech route to engaging young people in their education.  TES, FE Focus, 20 March 2009.

The Edge Learner Forum has invited a range of software technology companies to share their expertise and finds new ways to gather student’s views.  Rose Dowling, national director of the Edge Learning Forum says “We have had a physical network of learners across the country for some time, but we want to start a mass learner movement across the UK, facilitated by social networking and an online world”.

Edge is a charity promoting vocational options in education.