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Sector News, 21 - 22 June 2010

Britain aims for world class skills.  Education Guardian, 22 June 2010.

“Performance excellence”, is a new qualification developed by UK Skills and City and Guilds.  It attempts to replicate the gruelling training required to be successful in the WorldSkills competition.  Last year Adam Smith from Britain won a gold medal for his cooking at the competition held in Canada.  The new qualification, which can be taken alongside existing vocational qualification, is intended to develop students from being good enough to being world class.

Get a degree in sales from Harrods.  Education Guardian, 22 June 2010.

Harrods is introducing a degree in sales in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University.  The degree is designed to support the growing trend for workplace learning, a trend likely to be supported by more universities as the chancellor looks to cut budgets.  Only Harrods employees will be able to take the degree but, both Harrods and Anglia Ruskin are hoping that the experience will benefit other universities and work place training providers.

Taught postgraduates commend teaching but want more feedback.  THE, 22 June 2010 (from web site).

Many post graduates remain unsatisfied with the feedback they are given about their work but they are happy with the standard of teaching.  Over 32,000 students responded to the Higher Education Academy’s second Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) in which 85 per cent said their experience had either met or exceeded their expectations.

Sum of universities' fears: cuts of up to a quarter and VAT rise.  THE, 24 June 2010.

Universities are viewing a cut of 25 per cent in their budgets along with a rise in VAT as a terrifying scenario.  The rise of 2.5 per cent in VAT could put as much £70 to £100 million on universities’ day to day operating costs.  In addition, short to medium term capital projects are likely to cost an extra £250 to £300 million to accommodate the rise in VAT.

Maastricht treatise: bleak future for Europe's academy without GDP boost.  THE, 24 June 2010.

“A manifesto calling for more differentiation between teaching and research universities, greater autonomy from government and increased internationalisation was drawn up at a meeting of 20 experts at the University of Maastricht's Brussels site last week”.  The meeting of 20 experts at the University of Maastricht also asked for Governments to guarantee 2 per cent of GDP to ensure that European universities do not fall behind US and Asian universities.

Willetts signals boost for external providers.  THE, 24 June 2010.

There has been a mixed response to the news that David Willetts, the minister for universities and science, is to consider the possibility of private take overs of public universities.  Mr Willetts has been lobbied by BPP and other private providers who want to see easier access to student loans, more freedom to call themselves universities and degree awarding powers for private operators. 

Academics resist culture of sheer 'carelessness'.  THE, 24 June 2010.

Sue Clegg, head of the Centre for Research into Higher Education at Leeds Metropolitan University, believes that the amnount of care given by a number of academics to their students is remarkable under the academic and economic pressures they face.  She says that academics are often expected to be distant from their students, separating out care from the achievement of academic excellence.

Sports-park model is a winner, Surrey claims.  THE, 24June 2010.

The University of Surrey has opened a £36 million sports park which it intends to use as a commercial business.  By having the park as a commercial concern the university hopes to avoid a financial drain on its budget in years to come.  However, there is criticism that the park is no more than a money making exercise and that staff contracts are poor.

BMJ chief calls for a cure for medical 'mess'.  THE, 24 June 2010.

Dr Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, says that reporting bias is creating major problems affecting the whole of medicine.  She claims that it is rare to find a published paper which is negative about a drug.  As a further example she describes the time of the recent flu "pandemic" in which she accuses the World Health Organisation of using people with links to industry to write the news.   This, she argues, gave the public a biased view of events and that even the word “pandemic” was downgraded to ensure governments could act quickly.

Features in this week’s THE:

“Your financial future may be at risk...”; discusses the possibilites of a reduced value pension scheme.

“Day of the dead”; a look at Zombie culture.

“Elixirs of life”; Aldwyn Cooper, chief executive and principal of Regent's College, London, explains his love of fortified wines.

Training move would ‘kill off’ PGCE, dons warn.  TES, 25 June 2010.

Michael Gove has announced that the Government intends to move teacher training out of colleges and into the classroom.  Universities see this as a direct threat to Post Graduate Teacher Training.  Representatives of teacher trainers say that this will cause havoc and that it risks wiping out university provision altogether.

Colleges face prospect of 3-year pay freeze and course closures.  TES, FE Focus, 26 June 2010.

Although FE Colleges are outside of the public sector pay freeze, a large number of colleges are expected to not only freeze pay but also look for reductions in staffing and close courses.  The rise in VAT announced earlier this week will cost colleges around £45 million per year on top of what they fear will be cuts announced in the chancellor's spending review expected on October 20th.

FE staff fear burden of red tape will increase.  TES, FE Focus, 26 June 2010.

Although the Government has promised to cut bureaucracy it seems that most FE staff do not believe it.  All college principals have staff whose only job is to collect data for a multiplicity of regulators and they believe that it is this area where savings need to be made.  However, as examples of growing red tape, the allocation of a Unique Learner Number will involve costs in tracking and the need to deal with the Qualifications and Credit Framework will mean students registering for several parts of their course rather than once.

Improved quality at the right price: a vision realised or cheapened?  TES, FE Focus, 26 June 2010.

The university minister’s pledge to increase the amount of higher education within FE has generally been welcomed by colleges.   There are nevertheless, some doubts about the move.  Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) makes it clear that if the Government wants to encourage more students to follow an FE model then proper funding must be in place to make it work.  Her fear is that the Government wants HE on the cheap.  Over the past months the AoC has been lobbying for more directly funded HE in FE, constantly expressing the cost-effectiveness of this model.