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Sector News, 17 - 21 November 2008

Qualifications chaos quelled.  Education Guardian, 18 November 2008. 

 (Third story under "crib sheet")

The Qualifications Curriculum Framework (QCF), has just been accepted by ministers after two years of trials. Units, fractions of qualifications each worth a credit value, are the building blocks of a new system.  Hence, the QCF is a credit accumulation and transfer system. 

Reported in the Guardian are the following details:

  • levels from entry to level 8 ( same as old system),
  • most vocational qualifications within levels 1, 2 and 3,
  • three sizes of qualification, an ‘award’ 12 credits or up to 120 hours of learning, a ‘certificate’, 13-36 credits or up to 360 hours of learning, a ‘diploma’ requiring more than 36 credits.

Are fashion students being stitched up?  Education Guardian, 18 November 2008.

Universities and colleges are turning out fashion designers who cannot actually sew.  The end result is that students are leaving with qualifications but can’t get jobs because they lack the basic skills for the work.  The UK model for competitiveness requires highly skilled people with a broad range of practical talents, the current education and training system is not delivering this.

Academia and industry have much to gain in partnership.  Education Guardian, 18 November 2008. Comment: John Brooks vice chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University.

Building relationships between higher education and industry is beginning to be a long running theme in the educational newspapers.  This week John Brooks comes out in favour of more co-operation between the two sectors but with one or two caveats.

Changing course. Education Guardian, 18 November 2008.

Higher education courses of the future will involve mix and match courses across departments and students may even be able to use other universities for the odd module or two.  It will be a world where the academic year no longer exists, where students can switch from part time to full time course and where university courses will fit into the world of work.   In schools and colleges, close ties will be built and students will be encouraged to consider a career in higher education.   At least this is what will happen if the universities have their way.

‘Encouraging’ survey reveals most students are satisfied with teaching. THE, 20 November 2008.

A National Union of Students (NUS) survey of over 3,000 students has found that students have an average contact of 15 hours per week and over 80 per cent of them are happy with the standard of teaching.  It also shows that teaching at older universities is ranked more highly than those formed after 1992.

Business schools must spurn rewards culture that shamed the City.  THE, 20 November 2008.

Stefano Harney, reader in strategy at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London makes the argument for business schools to learn from the recent problems seen by the finance sector.  He sees business ethics as an important function and one which is getting sidelined, whilst incentive and individual success are more highly valued.

No awards for equity.  THE, 20 November 2008. This weeks major article.

Universities stand accused of using bursaries to give themselves a recruiting advantage rather than helping poorer students.  Research by Claire Callender, professor of higher education policy at Birkbeck, University of London suggests “that a diverse and competitive market has opened up".  Her findings show:

  • a complex system, with some 303 separate bursary and scholarship schemes in operation at 117 higher education institutions in England;
  • wide disparities in the size of bursaries offered to the poorest students, with those for students in receipt of a full government maintenance grant varying from £300 to £3,500 a year depending on which university they attend;
  • 40% of bursaries and scholarships are not means-tested;
  • one quarter of all bursaries are based exclusively on merit.

Baccalaureate plan threatens diplomas. TES, 21 November 2008.

A vocational version of the international baccalaureate will be available to teach in schools from 2011.  The certificate requires students to take a vocational qualification such as Btec along with a foreign language and an academic subject.  The move is seen as a threat to Government plans for a ‘strong’ diploma.  To further irritate the Government, the international baccalaureate is outside of state control.  There are schools who see a 14-19 baccalaureate as a credible certificate which parents are more likely to opt for, not least because of the baccalaureate’s good reputation.

See also “IB shakes off its elitist image” and “Vocational IB can do a good job”.

Experts in a ‘fog’ over key policy.  TES, 21 November 2008.

Although a schools based article, the term “personalised learning” will strike a chord with some in further education.  In this article, Professor David Hargreaves explains why he told a House of Commons school committee that he has concluded that it is a waste of time.

Colleges freed to boost economy.  TES, FE Focus, 21 November 2008.

The Government has changed its mind over unaccredited courses.  John Denham, Secretary of State for Skills, has stated that he will explore ways to give colleges their wish for more flexibility to recruit unemployed people who were not ready for nationally recognised qualifications.

‘Fees cut language learners by 40%’. TES, FE Focus, 21 November 2008.

From a peak of nearly 550,000 students prior to 2006, the number of students enrolling on ESOL courses had fallen to 335,000 by the end of 2007.  The loss is attributed to plans to charge fees.  A strange state of affairs, when the country has allowed large numbers of immigrants but has not had the strategies in place to teach them English.

Comment.  TES, FE Focus, 21 November 2008.

Three items under this banner this week.

Colleges have the earned the right to be heard”, which is a comment on the story above “Colleges free to boost economy”.

Skills system should be kept simple now”. Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of the Northwest Regional Development Agency arguing for simplicity and stability within the skills system, in line with the “Leitch Report”.

We’re working together”. Alan Yates, Headteacher, Great Sankey High School, Warrington, expressing dismay at an earlier report by David Collins.  Alan Yates explains that where diplomas are working successfully they are doing so with strong partnerships.