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Sector News, 18 - 22 April 2011

Tuition fees reach £8,679.20 average among universities posting price lists. Education Guardian, 18 April 2011.

Almost three quarters of universities will set their tuition fees at the £9,000 limit. David Willetts insists that by shifting HE funding from teaching grant to tuition fees it opens universities to more competition. He also said that it was unlikely that universities would charge the higher £9,000 fee. However, David Willetts insists that if students look closely at the fee structure most students would be paying less after bursaries had been taken into account. Universities have until the 19 April to put their plans to the Government’s access watchdog.

Degree classification is unfair to many students. Education Guardian, 18 April 2011.

Opinion: Professor Nigel Seaton, senior deputy vice-chancellor, University of Surrey.

Whilst students, parents and employers accept the grading system for degrees as a measure of academic achievement, the system has serious flaws according to Professor Nigel Seaton. Professor Seaton argues that the difference between a 2:1 and a 2:2 could amount to little more than one or two per cent and as such shows little difference in achievement. He also cites academic judgment which could award students with 58 per cent a 2:1qeven though the marks are below the 60 per cent threshold. Many employers, when looking at student’s achievement see little more than 2:1 or 2:2 and pay no attention to the students overall abilities.

Art schools face uncertain financial future.  Education Guardian, 19 April 2011.

The big London art universities are facing a major financial crisis. Universities which specialise in arts are facing severe cuts, in the case of the University of the Arts (London) this will be as much as £50 million in public funding.  The cuts are forcing the universities to re-structure their courses, look overseas for students, offer foundation degrees and increase their post-graduate profiles.

Get a degree by 'blended learning'. Education Guardian, 19 April 2011.

Blended learning is a description of a course where distance learning has built in features to allow on line tutoring from lecturers often using modern technology such as SKYPE. It is a fast growing system which allows degrees to be taken part time with more support from tutors than would be expected from an ordinary distance learning course.

Fair access: charity shows government how it's done. Education Guardian, 19 April 2011.

Villiers Park Educational Trust is a specialist charity working with gifted and talented pupils. It has however, changed part of its focus to concentrate on gifted and talented pupils who are disadvantaged through a programme known as the scholars programme. The programme has 240 pupils from years 10 to13 drawn from disadvantaged areas of Swindon, Hastings and Bexhill. Schools and colleges involved in the scheme say that it has boosted pupil’s confidence and made them believe that they can apply to top universities to study for a degree.

Vocation, vocation: fears over post-92 cuts to humanities.  THE, 21 April 2011.

Post-1992 universities are more heavily affected by the government's decision to withdraw the teaching grant from all but science, technology, engineering and mathematics. What has followed government decisions is a spate of course and school closures which could seriously jeapordise the future of the arts, humanities and social sciences at new universities. Universities are also fearful that the arts subjects will not be available to poorer students. As an example of the closures London Metropolitan University, is to scrap subjects such as history, philosophy, performing arts and Caribbean studies.

Fees turmoil blamed as students drag heels over 2011 offers. THE, 21 April 2011.

The number of applicants to universities is down by 12 per cent from last year and the number accepting provisional offers is down by 20 per cent. Proof, according to some university representatives that the new fees regime is making applicants think carefully before accepting places.

Sharing information on fees 'might be illegal', says UUK. THE, 21 April 2011.

Universities UK (UUK) has warned that sharing information on tuition fees might be breaking competition law and hence be illegal.  Legal advice is that universities should "consider very carefully...the sharing of information, and the nature of the discussions they are able to have with colleagues from other institutions".

Our first duty is to the future, not to government, rectors say. THE, 21 April 2011.

José María Sanz Martínez, rector of the Autonomous University of Madrid, has told delegates at the European University Association's conference that institutions of higher education were the primary source of talent, creativity and research skills - "critical resources to any economy, and particularly to the knowledge economy we have now".  It is his opinion that European universities are losing their global position because of government pressure to diversify and focus instead of on the work they are established to do.

Digital stairways need wheelchair ramps, too. THE, 21 April 2011.

Tara Brabazon explains how she has developed her teaching strategies to cope with the numerous disabilities suffered by some of her students have.

(We do not normally comment on articles but this is well worth reading.)

Features in this week’s THE.

Ariel casts out Caliban, covers John Bramhall, Bishop of Derry’s, discussion on why Bonobos with their social graces are a better model for human origins than other apes. See also Leader "Ape market or come together?"

Leading Questions: Matthew Reisz reports on a French debate on how to cultivate leadership qualities in MBA students.

The Arts. THE, 21 April 2011

Alex Danchev,  professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, reports on the Joan Miró exhibition “The Ladder of Escape” showing at the Tate Modern, London, until 11 September. This week’s film review by Duncan Wu is “Cedar Rapids”, to be released in the UK on 29 April.  Gary Day’s TV slot is “The Great Estate: The Rise and Fall of the Council House, BBC Four’s programme screened on the 14 April.

Training quango’s budget is slashed by over £200m. TES, 22 April 2011.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) is to have its budget cut from £786 to £568 million. TDA has already announced cuts to initial teacher training and continuous professional development. The role of TDA is changing and it will become part of the Department for Education (DfE) as an executive agency in April 2012 which is the year that the DfE’s review of teacher training is due to report.

Edexcel moves to keep BTECs in league tables. TES, 22 April 2011.

BTEC says that it is changing its assessment regime to account for comments in the Wolf review. External assessment is likely to replace the internally assessed and externally validated system currently in use. Despite the Wolfe’s report contention that the use of vocational qualifications had exploded in schools, BTECs account for only 13.5 per cent of all school league table GCSE scores.

Burden of freedom weighs on colleges in post-EMA era. TES, 22 April 2011.

The Government announced bursaries worth £180 million to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance was accompanied by the claim that colleges would have the freedom to use the funding how they saw fit. Colleges will have to decide, whether to spread the money widely, concentrate on individuals, create a general entitlement and how much flexibility to build into any system they adopt. However, based on the experience from colleges handling of the discretionary learners support fund it appear that colleges will spread the funding thinly.

Tears at test time: deprived teens revolt over pen-and-paper exams. TES, FE Focus, 22 April 2011.

Training providers working with disadvantaged teenagers are reporting that their charges are walking out of examinations  Changes brought about by the move to functional skills tests have forced teenagers to take part in written examinations rather than the less formal online tests. Colleges are saying that they are not seeing the same problem over tests which Alison Wolf reported* as having major flaws.

*Alison Wolf – vocational qualifications for under 19s.

Employers could thwart apprenticeship drive. TES, Fe Focus, 22 April 2011.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has claimed that 43 per cent of the respondents to a CIPD survey said that they would not recruit apprentices next year. Additionally, of the 45 per cent that have recruited this year only 35 per cent say that hey will continue to take on apprentices. If proved this result could come as blow to a government that has determined to create a record 430,000 apprentices over the next four years.

Government fails to deliver on promise of unified careers advice.  TES, FE Focus, 22 April 2011.

Careers advisers say that the new National Careers Service is illusionary and does not deliver on its promise to create a unified careers service. From 2012 the National Careers Service will offer a helpline, website and face to face service for adults but school will have to buy their own careers advice.

Schools are not informing students of FE options, colleges say. TES, FE Focus, 22 April 2011.

Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Leaning Providers has asked for the government to put more checks on schools in place after accusing schools with sixth forms of not giving their pupils sufficient advice about options in FE.