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Sector News, 17 - 21 January 2011

Funding cuts threaten English lessons.  Education Guardian, 18 January 2011.       

New regulations for Esol courses threaten the future of English classes.  The government strategy on skills will ensure that only people on "active benefits" such as jobseeker's allowance (JSA) or employment support allowance (ESA) will be bale to receive funding.  All others, for example those on income support, low incomes, asylum seekers, migrant workers and refugees will be excluded.  

Postgraduates next in line for funding cuts.  Education Guardian, 18 January 2011.

There is no mechanism for post graduates to pay for tuition out of subsidised loans which pay for post graduate courses ‘up front’.  However, around £100m provided by the government to part-fund masters programmes is due to be removed because classroom-based (band D) students will not receive any funding.  The end result is that students will be faced with funding the full cost of courses without any support with the inevitable reduction in student numbers and courses.

See also “Who can afford a doctorate in the arts and humanities now?” in which Lucy Tobin looks at the plight of post graduate students in the arts and humanities field.  

First published in THE 13 January 2011;Taught postgraduate degrees may soon be preserve of the rich.

Home and away: UK study on foreign soil.  THE, 20 January 2011.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that there are more foreign students studying for UK degrees abroad than in the UK.  The figures show that approximately 50,000 more non-EU students study abroad than study in the UK.

Plagiarism software can be beaten by simple tech tricks.  THE, 20 January 2011.

James Heather, senior lecturer in computing at the University of Surrey, says that plagiarism detection systems such as Turnitin are easy to fool.  Dr Heather insists that getting students to submit work in Microsoft Word (e.g.) is not a solution to the software problem.  Students could easily convert a doctored PDF into Word and hence render the plagiarism software useless.

Work-study BSc scheme a UK first. THE, 20 January 2011.

KPMG, the accountancy firm, has launched a new BSc scheme with Durham University in which undergraduates “will earn as they learn”.  The company will meet the full costs of the degree whilst paying the recruits a salary.   It is hoped that there will eventually be as many as 400 students annually taking the degree.

Expectation inflation: as demands rise, ability to meet them declines.  THE, 20 January 2011.

Opinion; David Beers, lecturer in sociology, University of York.

David Beer is concerned that in the light of the Browne Review, students will be making unacceptable demands on universities.  Expecting that students will make demands based on high tuition fees, he fears that there will be a split between students’ and lecturers’ relationships and that universities will find it increasingly difficult to keep up with student demands.

Features in this week’s THE:

Defeated by violence and silence: Alastair Hudson, a National Teaching fellow and professor of law at Queen Mary, University of London, discusses why resistance to the government’s plans for universities has failed.

In a complementary article (to the above), Clive Bloom, emeritus professor of English and American studies at Middlesex University looks at the proud tradition of student protests under the headline “When the kids are united”.

Putting reality back into the equation” is a feature in which Chris Ormell argues that blind faith in numbers played a major role in the financial crash and that in future mathematicians should have their feet planted firmly on the ground.  Chris Ormell is editor of Prospero.

The Arts.  THE, 20 January 2011.

In this week’s culture section, “Pick-and-mix Piano Man” makes an analysis of the rise of James Rhodes suggesting that this talented pianist is an example of the success of modern marketing.   The featured film is “Barney’s Version”, Duncan Wu, professor of English at Georgetown University, gives his opinion of the film based on a novel by Mordecai Richler. Gary Day’s, daytime TV slot, focuses on Andrew Graham-Dixon, art critic, and particularly on his discourse about Constable (“Points of view”).  Gary Day is principal lecturer in English at De Montfort University.

Candidates ‘abandon’ teaching as Gove keeps schtum over training fund.  TES, 21 January 2011.

Universities who run the PGCE and under graduate degree courses say that students are withdrawing applications because the government will not say how many students they can accept.  Representatives of universities say that the situation is extremely difficult and that they are offering conditional places to students in the hope that the government will fund them.  However, it appears that conditional offers are insufficient to prevent many prospective students from seeking alternative career paths.

‘Serious concerns’ over online learner records.  TES, FE Focus, 21 January 2011.

Exam boards are concerned that the new ‘on line’ personal learning record (PLR) could allow confidential data to become widely available.  They are further worried that student results could become corrupted because of flaws in the online database.  The chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies says that its members have no control once the data has been added to the database. 

VAT anomaly sees over-18s barred from new facilities.  TES, FE Focus, 21 January 2011.

Colleges are exempt from paying VAT on new buildings if they are used for 16-18 year olds.  However, should more than 5 per cent of the building be used for income generation, it must pay tax.  The end result is that fee paying students and community groups are not allowed to use the facilities.

‘No’ to compromise as Coalition resolves to axe EMA.  TES, FE Focus, 21 January 2011.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham has proposed a compromise over EMA cuts.  The education secretary has said that he would be prepared to negotiate a 19 per cent cut to the EMA budget.  However, coalition ministers say that they will not move from their desire to create a new student support system.

The ‘cruel’ cuts that could silence a generation.  TES, FE Focus, 21 January 2011.

Cuts to the funding of English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) will mean that Esol budgets will halve over the next two years.  After a trebling of demand in 2005 increased the Esol budget to £300 million, the then FE minister Bill Rammell introduced fees for anyone not on benefits.  Now the coalition government is going further with a 32 per cent cut in Esol funding this year.   Dissenting voices include Niace, the National Union of Students and College principals.  Between them they argue that the cuts are doubly hurtful because they are targeted at those in our society who are already isolated because of lack of language skills.   It seems that the Department of business Innovation and Skills is aware of the issues surrounding the cuts as officials are prepared to ask for evidence towards a dedicated quality impact assessment.