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Sector News, 19 - 23 July 2010

Good university funding guide.  Education Guardian, 20 July 2010.

The Guardian this week looks at five ideas for handling HE tuition fees.  These ideas are keeping the status quo, using a graduate tax, raising the cap, lifting the cap and cutting student numbers.  The published table discusses what each of the ideas mean, who it's for, who is against the idea and the pros and cons.

Colleges look further afield for students.  Education Guardian, 20 July 2010.

The appointment by the Association of Colleges of an international director indicates how keen FE colleges are to attract overseas students.  There are no sector statistics on the number of overseas students in the FE sector but estimates suggest up to 50,000.  UKBA (United Kingdom Border Agency) has decided that the FE sector should have “highly trusted sponsor status”, which is a good marketing tool for a sector which is keen to get in on an act in which universities have a long tradition.

Business beckons.  Education Guardian supplement, 20 July 2010.

This week’s supplement is about MBAs.

Good lessons in bad times”, comments on the soaring demand for MBAs as potential students aim to fend off the recession and boost their employability credentials.  According to the Association of Business Schools (ABS), the recession is a good time to start an MBA.  ABS says that the degree has maintained its value and is always under demand when people are looking to protect themselves from possible unemployment.

Home or abroad: where to study”, reports on the attraction for overseas student to UK MBAs.  Part of the attraction is a weaker pound making the UK a place which offers better value for money than other European countries.  However, that cannot explain totally why Reading University, for example, has 80 per cent of its MBA students from abroad, a statistic which is reflected at other universities.   

Private business school spy an opportunity”, makes the point that as student numbers are squeezed in mainstream universities, private providers are ready to take up the slack.  There are more than 30 private business school providers and students may not be bothered whether an institution is publicly or privately funded (an average full time MBA can cost in excess of £30,000).  Private school see themselves as more innovative than tradition HE establishments where the internal running of the university can shackle new ideas (according to the business schools).

Flexibility key for women”, points to the gender imbalance on MBA courses where men outnumber women considerably.  The imbalance may be caused by the age of people who take up the courses, many in their late twenties to early thirties when many women are starting a family.  The lack of opportunity at middle and higher management level can also deter women from taking on a MBA.  However, Manchester Metropolitan Business School offers a flexible programme which allows people to mix their working and social lives with study.

NB. There are no links to Guardian supplements.

Over-recruitment bill: £16 million.  THE, 22 July 2010.

Universities and colleges that recruited too many students in 2009-10 will have their grants cut by a total of almost £18 million.  De Montfort University Leicester is one of the hardest hit with grant cuts estimated to be in the order of £3.4 million.

Business secretary moots ‘graduate tax’ to replace poll tax. THE, 22 July 2010.

Continuing its story from 15th July (“Cable sets out radical plans for academy’s future”), the THE reports that the statement about a graduate tax has caused serious concern amongst Lib Dems and senior Tories who are said to be unhappy with the idea that the richest 10 per cent of graduates will pay more than the cost of their education.  There are those in higher education who believe that Mr Cable is making an attempt to get the Lib Dems off the hook as the Liberal Democrat manifesto made it clear that they would not support an increase in tuition fees.  As well as suggesting that the move is politically motivated, other dissenting voices have said that the end result of introducing a graduate tax could force some universities out of state control altogether and that European students, who do not pay tax in the UK, could end up being subsidised by UK students.

See also “When the levy breaks”, opinion by Alan Ryan visiting fellow in politics’ Princeton University, and “Great and good voice concerns at Cable's attempt to 'turn back the clock'”.

A hashtag for the head: v-c tweets to keep in touch.  THE, 22 July 2010.

Dominic Shellard, vice chancellor at De Montfort University, has become only the second v-c in the UK to use twitter to contact his staff and students.  He joins a growing world wide movement of academics who see the social networking site as an aid to their work.

University may be given keys to Citizendium.  THE, 22 July 2010.

Larry Sanger, a philosopher and co-founder of Wikipedia, set up Citizendium in 2006 to pool academic expertise.  Unlike Wikipedia, Citizendium requires contributors to give their real names, it modifies unprofessional behaviours and features peer review articles.  Now Dr. Sanger is about to step down and amongst the possibilities being currently discussed is to hand over Citizendium to a university or the academic press.

 Features in this week’s THE:

And yet it works”, two articles about the effects on academia of what the press call “Climategate”.  By Adam Corner, research associate School of Psychology, Cardiff University and Darrel Ince, (“A bona fide dispute”) professor of computing at the Open University.

Pride of place”, Fred Inglis shares his passion for the British landscape and its representation in art.  Fred Inglis is honorary professor of cultural history, University of Warwick.

No links to TES yet

Cambridge rejects Gove A-level plan.  TES, 23 July 2010.

Cambridge University has said that it is happy with the current As A-level arrangements and is worried about the education secretary’s proposals to change to a single examination A-level system.  Cambridge argues that As levels give a better indication of a student’s final A-level grades, GCSE results being an unreliable predictor. 

Additionally, Cambridge warns that scrapping As levels will undermine moves that have been made to widen participation.

Architects of ditched languages diploma battle to rebuild it.  TES, 23 July 2010.

When the government brought the development of academic diplomas to a halt last month, it did it just as the language diploma was about to be launched.  Now language experts are talking to City and Guilds in the hope that at least part of the language diploma can be resurrected.  41 per cent of pupils take a language GCSE, their only move forward now being A levels.  It is hoped that a course can be developed which is at the same standard of A level but with a different approach which will motivate students more.

FE gains political clout in its move to boost skills agenda.  TES, FE Focus, 23 July 2010.

John Hayes, minister for further education, skills and lifelong learning is now minister of state for apprenticeships as well.  This new portfolio puts Mr Hayes in two departments, Business Innovation and Skills as well as the Department for Education.  The move is seen as increasing FE’s political clout but it now sits uncomfortably across two departments.  A government spokesman has said that in the light of the new move it will be important to ensure that FE’s financing regime is made as simple as possible.

Vocational qualifications are best, say employers.  TES, FE Focus, 23 July 2010.

A survey by City and Guilds has reported that most employers prefer to hire people with vocational skills rather than take on university graduates.  The research which involved 1,200 employers in 26 industries also concluded that vocationally qualified staff:

  • have skills and experience that academic graduates do not have,
  • are vital for business success,
  • will play an important part in economic recovery.

Whilst more than half of the employers agree that vocational qualifications are undervalued, they also put little faith in apprentices reaching managerial positions.