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Sector News, 21 - 25 February 2011

Universities Scotland calls for tuition fees to plug funding gap.  Education Guardian, 21 February 2011.

Universities Scotland has proposed that a graduate contribution should be around  £3,290 a year which is roughly the cost of tuition in England. Scottish students do not currently pay tuition fees and Scotland's government has repeatedly ruled out the introduction of fees north of the border.  However, Scottish universities want to see a graduate contribution of around £13,000 for a four-year degree.


Youngsters from ethnic minorities miss out on apprenticeships.  Education Guardian, 22 February 2011.

The percentage of black and ethnic minorities currently undertaking apprenticeships varies from 6 to 8 per cent depending whose statistics you use.  However, all parties agree that this is an area which requires special attention.  The reasons for the lack of black and ethnic minority apprentices appears to be based in both employer and applicant.  Particularly in industries like construction the workforce is predominantly white male and there are those who believe that white males are what employers are looking for.  There is also a perception that BME applicants do not expect to succeed or fit in with the workforce if they do get an apprenticeship.


Student Tuition Fees.  THE, 24 February 20111

The arguments over raising tuition fees and the maximum levels allowed is continued in this week’s THE.

You mean Offa is toothless? The reason for policy chaos”.

It was believed by the Government that the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) had powers to set university fee levels.  The error has caused considerable confusion and the Government is now having to deal with the consequences. Hence, the recent threat that tuition fees or research fees could be cut if universities did not justify any student fees which approached £9,000 were groundless.

Balancing budgets is hard when funders won't go all the way.”

This is a connected story about the difficulties being faced on a European scale.  Thomas Estermann, head of the governance, autonomy and funding unit at the European University Association, believes that the European university funder’s reluctance to fund universities properly threatens the universities status and viability.

Cuts endanger Anglo-American supremacy.”

“Jamil Salmi, director of tertiary education at the World Bank, said "something will give" in even the top universities if current declines in investment continue over the long term and the sector struggles against fierce competition from Asia. He added that institutions in the US that are being squeezed by state funding cuts also faced losing out as rivals including China, South Korea and Singapore add to their roster of world-class institutions”.

"Legal profession frets about diversity and oversupply".

The legal profession is concerned that raising tuition fees to £9,000 will have an adverse effect.  Nicholas Greene QC has commented that on completion of the BTPC or LPC students would face debts of up to £70,000.  This Nicholas Greene believes will affect the diversity of people taking a law route to a career and hence the diversity of  those administering the law.

£9K fees 'difficult to defend, says Willetts.”

David Willetts has re-iterated his view that universities will find it difficult to justify charging top fees.  He accuses universities of rushing toward the £9,000 limit without considering the effect on students.


Ucas' day job to get all fees online.  THE, 24 February 2011.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service will publish online in July details of 2012 tuition fees for every course. Unfortunately, its annual guide to university courses has had to be scrapped owing to changes to the funding regime.


Features in this week’s THE.

"A weather eye on the US storm:  Sarah Cunnane reports on the deep flaws affecting USA universities which are leading to soaring tuition fees and diminishing graduation levels.

The pursuit of hire education”: Christine Buccella, project director of bestcourse4me.com, discusses not only the effect of tuition fees on students but, also applicants justifiable concerns about the economic value of the degree they might wish to take.  Job prospects are rightly high on the research list for any young person considering university.


The Arts.  THE, 24 February 2011.

Duncan Wu’s film review covers The Company Men” directed by John Wells and on release in the UK on 11 March. The film looks at what happens to high flying company executives when they get made redundant.  The beauty of books: Medieval Masterpiece”, is the headline for Gary Day’s TV slot in which he bemoans the rise of electronic books and makes a plea for ‘real books’. Peter Hill, adjunct professor of fine art at RMIT University, Melbourne, gives an introduction to the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart, Tasmania (Chthonic and Iconic).


“Professor Peter Main, director of education and science at the IoP, said it’s “absolutely clear” that the teacher training physics target will not be met this year. Universities will not be able to fill the spare places with chemists or biologists, and academics have warned this will leave schools without science teachers in the future.”  This is the starkest warning yet that the Government will not reach its desired target of trebling the number of physics teachers being trained.


Ofqual head: Pen and paper must go.  TES, 25 February 2011.

Ofqual’s outgoing chief executive Isabel Nisbet has said that paper based examinations must go to be replaced by computer generated examinations.  Isabel argues that retaining traditional writing materials would mean GCSEs and A-levels becoming “invalid” for digitally native pupils.


'Big drop-off' in entrants predicted after bursary axe.  TES, 25 February 2011.

“Bursaries in religious studies, music, PE, art, business studies, citizenship, history, dance and drama, worth £4,000-£6,000, have now been axed”. This has left universities very worried about losing many applicants for teacher training in these subjects.


Academics call for neuroscience to be included in training.  TES, 25 February 2011.

The Royal Society believes that all teacher training graduates should have undergone some training in how children’s brains works.  “

Professor Uta Frith, chair of [a] working group that produced [a] report, said: "Education is concerned with enhancing learning and neuroscience is concerned with understanding the mechanisms of learning. It seems only logical that the one should inform the other”.

Exam error costs 13 their first choices. TES, 25 February 2011.

Ofqual have found that mistakes made by AQA in introducing a new on line marking system led to 3,353 pupils getting the wrong marks, 622 the incorrect grade and that thirteen pupils missed out on their choice of university, two of which failed to obtained a place.


Ways to put the ardour in an arduous climb to university.  TES, FE Focus, 25 February 2011.

This article focuses on the issues surrounding the “Aimhigher” programme which has helped a lot of disadvantaged young people enter university.  Aimhigher’s budget of £78 million is being cancelled in July and this has forced college’s to either scrap any plans to help disadvantaged pupils or find new ways of helping.  Needless to say the latter is most college’s choice.  The experiences and future planning in the wake of the loss of funding in a number of colleges is explained.


Our Neet record is neat.  TES, FE Focus, 25 February 2011.

Lewisham Borough Council respond to earlier criticism of them closing the Connexions service saying that they have an outstanding record of reducing the number of 16-19 year olds not in employment.