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Sector News, 20 - 24 October 2008

Forces gather against Labour on adult learning.  Education Guardian, 21 October 2008.

More than fifty organisations, including the Church of England, WI and the Muslim Council of Britain,  have joined together to call for the restoration of 1.4m publicly funded adult education places, as a minimum.  John Denham is delighted at the response to his consultation on “informal adult learning”, which is certainly a greater response than most government consultations achieve.  However, the interview with John Denham, published in the guardian this week, is non committal in terms of future funding for adult education.

We cannot leave higher education to the markets.  Education Guardian, 21 October 2008.

Comment – Roger Brown-professor of higher education policy and co-director of the Centre for Research and Development in Higher Education at Liverpool Hope University.

The cap on tuition fees for full time undergraduates is £3,145, according to some this figure should be nearer £6,500.   Increasing fees in this manner brings with it considerable condemnation from the public.  Whilst the government is reluctant to massively increase public expenditure in higher education it leaves universities with limited options, two of which are either to increase student fees or obtain funding from industry.  Whilst some employers are shouting for more relevant degrees, their record in training does not suggest that they are willing to provide the cash.

Hefce moots linking cash to employability.  THE, 23 October 2008.

“Universities could be funded according to their ability to produce employable graduates as the Government seeks to measure their success in up-skilling the work force”.  John Denham has asked Hefce to examine measures in five areas, research, innovation, teaching, widening participation and up-skilling the workforce.  Hefce consider that by limiting the measures for funding in this way they risk prejudicing the university sector’s chances of supporting their students and wider community.

18 institutions to trial end of degree reports. THE, 23 October 2008.

The Higher Education Achievement Report (Hear), to be piloted, will include details of student’s module marks and other achievements alongside an overall classification.

Part-time study vital to UK’s future economic success, review says.  THE, 23 October 2008.

Professor Christine King, vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University, says that “radical changes to part time education are needed if the UK is to take a lead role in the knowledge economy.  Currently, part time provision is viewed as second class and has a reputation of taking place at the end of the day, in cold rooms and no coffee.  In light of the changes in adult age group and the inception of faster broadband technologies, the world of the part time class must change.

Buy into a vision for expansion.  THE, 23 October 2008.

This week’s leader considers the factors surrounding the mass expansion of HE.  There are comments about increased number of first class degrees, “dumbing down”, the changing expectations of undergraduates, student retention and the need to consider the awards that may be made available in the future.

Home truths: the best education isn’t always the farthest away.  THE, 23 October 2008.

Opinion – Pamela Taylor, principal, Newman University College and an executive member of GuildHE.

Growing Government demands that bright underprivileged pupils should be encouraged to apply to elite universities is seen as unhelpful.  The overall message seems to be that only the experiences in a research-led university are worthwhile. Pamela Taylor believes that the Government is missing the larger and possibly more important target of those who are not considering higher education as an option.

Buckingham: why QAA has ‘serious’ concerns.  THE, 23 October 2008.

In response to Terence Kealy’s article in  THE of 16 October, Peter Williams, chief exec. QAA, comments on the QAA’s lack of confidence in Buckingham University.

Keep it stupid, simple.  THE, 23 October 2008.

A major article in this weeks THE discussing the reality of ‘dumbing down’ in higher education.   THE conducted an on-line poll in an attempt to give a snapshot of what UK academics make of the charges brought against them.  500 readers responded to the survey the results of which are analysed within the article.  The results make interesting, albeit expected, reading with, for example, almost 70 per cent agreeing that a rise in the number of first and upper second class degrees did not indicate a rise in standards.

Pass mark for science GCSE is forced down. TES, 24 October 2008.

AQA has admitted that one of its most popular GCSEs has become easier. The admission was made after AQA reluctantly agrees to lower the mark needed to achieve a grade C after a request from England’s new qualifications regulator.  Needless to say, AQA did this under protest commenting that “AQA is reluctant to adopt a standard for GCSE that is less comparable with the past than it needs to be”.

Visa rules hit college fees.  TES, FE Focus, 24 October 2008.

From next spring non EU students cannot apply to study in the UK for courses below level three.  This will bar them from dozens of popular low level language courses and vocational programmes.  The result will be a reduction in further education college student numbers along with a loss of income.

Diploma need to be more hands-on for teenagers.  TES, FE Focus, 24 October 2008.

David Collins, president of the Association of Colleges (AoC) says that colleges should be able to take the lead rather than local authorities in driving the diploma programme.  Some colleges are calling for the power to take charge of diplomas admit 14 year olds directly.

To rethink FE is not to destroy it.  TES, FE Focus, 24 October 2008.

John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

John Denham points to the FE budget which he says has increased by almost 50% and that by 2010 the Government will be spending nearly £5 billion a year on adult education and skills.   In terms of adult education, John Denham says that many courses which were initially funded by the Government are still in existence but in other forums.  For example, U3A (University of the Third Age), Internet sites and employer schemes.

Talent needs new paths to tread. TEs, FE Focus, 24 October 2008.

Andy Powell, chief executive of Edge believes that raising the school leaving age will not solve the drop-out problem, what we need is a more creative curriculum.  “The curriculum (according to Andy Powell) has become straitjacketed and too few young people get to experience practical, hands-on learning, or the chance to explore their talents and find out what they enjoy”.