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Sector News, 19 April 2010

What does the election hold for education policy?  Education Guardian, 20 April 2010.

This is the Guardian’s take on the election manifestos of not only the three major parties but also the Greens and Ukip.  

See also “How are the parties shaping up?

Diplomas in rural areas threatened by transport problems.  Education Guardian, 20 April 2010.

Concerns are being raised about the cost of transport for students in rural areas particularly in the context of the Diploma.  Local Authorities have now got responsibility for the funding of Diplomas after the Skills Council was wound up.  With Diplomas often requiring students to travel to different sites the cost of transport becomes a huge issue for rural councils.  In addition the lack of good transport facilities between sites may well put off some students from taking the Diploma which is steadily growing in demand.

Let’s breathe new life into apprenticeships.  Education Guardian, 20 April 2010.

Comment: Adam Jones, Dragon’s Den.

Adam Jones is in favour of apprenticeships which he sees as a gateway to employment.  Whilst he sees it as important to have apprenticeships offered in engineering, manufacturing and construction, he also believes that there is a need for wider apprenticeships on entrepreneurship, enterprise and business skills.  He comments that many businesses are supportive of apprenticeships in discussion but are unwilling to offer them for a variety of reasons.  Adam’s answer to this is to create apprenticeships offered by educational providers and supported by employers rather than apprenticehips run by a single employer.

Students tune in to employability.  Education Guardian, 20 April 2010.

All across the country undergraduates are teaching themselves the skills they need to get a job.  Examples given in the paper include a radio station at Surrey University, run by students who say that it is not only fun to be part of the radio team but that it gives them essential skills required to apply for employment in the media industry.  In Swansea University, masters and PhD students give their time to workshops where undergraduates can drop in for advice.  The graduates taking part in the Swansea scheme say that it delivers for them practice in the skills of mentoring, useful for those who wish to become lecturers.  One further example is that of Ben McDougal, development officer for the student’s union at Leeds Metropolitan University, who has set up projects in PR, TV and radio with the intention of getting students to develop management skills.

Computers may overlook ‘contextual information’.  THE, 22 April 2010.

In an attempt to cope with rising applications, universities are turning to admissions software.  However, there is concern that using admissions software means that personal statements will not be properly considered.   Up to 70 per cent of universities are using one programme, SITS: Vision, produced by the Tribal Group. 

A spokesperson for the group admitted that the software could not replace the need to make decisions where there are complex requirements involved in the selection criteria.

Embrace technology to avoid ‘crisis of relevance’.  THE 22 April 2010.

At the annual conference of the Joint Information Systems Committee in London, William Dutton, director of Oxford Internet Institute, said that universities should not be doing anything in the classroom that could be done on line.   Despite significant opposition by some academics, the open access approach to university courses and information is a steadily growing area of university life.

Features in this week’s THE:

Exposed and vulnerable”, Violence against foreigners has put Australian universities' treatment and reliance on overseas students under scrutiny.

Preliminary measures”.  Another Australian story, this time the launching of a scheme to assess the quality of academic departments.

The meaning of life”.  Dale Salwak, professor of English, Citrus College, Glendora, California, says “You don’t have to be a devout believer to study the Bible – its insights into the human condition are enlightening”.

The enemies within”. Anthony Glees explains how his research into Soviet and Stasi operatives and their sympathisers in the academy led him to see the risks posed by today’s Islamic terrorists on campus.  Anthony Giles is professor of politics, University of Buckingham.

More than half of colleges may have exaggerated success rates, says study.  TES, FE Focus, 23 April 2010.

Placing students on less demanding courses part way through the year, changing start and end dates for courses and poor control over partner provision are all cited as contributing factors to what the Parson Research Institute claim shows widespread exaggeration of college success rates.

Tories threaten to abolish ‘ill though-out’ RDAs.  TES, FE Focus, 23 April 2010.

Should the country choose to change the party in power from Labour to Conservative the lead role of regional development agencies will disappear.  The Conservative Party see RDAs as rushed and ill thought out, a view shared by the Liberal Democrats.

Train to Gain axe threat sparks rush.  TES, FE Focus, 23 April 2010.

In expectation that Train to Gain will either disappear or be largely changed by a new government, colleges are switching their provision to basic skills or apprenticeships. Both the Tories and Lib Dems are unhappy with Train to Gain which they see as offering poor value for money.  Both parties point to inspection reports which show success rate varying from as high as 99 per cent to as low as 8 per cent along with Train to Gain funding being used for provision which would normally have been paid for by employers.