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Sector News, 22 - 23 June 2009

Grown-ups are good for business.  Education Guardian, 23 June 2009.

A figure of 30,000 over 25s apprenticeships was expected by the Government - this year it is 60,000.  Apprenticeships for the over-25s are very popular.  Even the Government wondered if a training programme in which only half the cost was subsidised would take off.  However, employers are keen to re-train the over 25s.

Vice-chancellors call for tuition fees to be raised.  Education Guardian, 23 June 2009.

“Vice-chancellors from a group of top research universities have called openly for the fee cap to be raised, in the first such public demand from a university body”.  Amid complaints that Government funding per student is £8,000 less than is required, figures of £5,000 as tuition fees were raised along with a scrapping of the zero rated loan.

 One door shuts but another opens.  Education Guardian, 23 June 2009.

This year is expected to be a tough year for those graduating from university.  Graduate jobs are expected to be low in number and two out of three students interviewed expect that there will be little chance if any of obtaining graduate work.  Hence many students have already opted to stay on to take further courses at university.

 Former Education Secretary bemoans progress.  THE, 25 June 2009.

Charles Clarke, the former Education Secretary, has commented about a lack of political maturity in the discussion about tuition fees.  He believes that there is still a rift between universities and industry, many industrialists not seeing the benefit to them of higher education.

‘Myth’ of ivory tower under siege as survey shows industry links are strong.  THE, 25 June 2009.

A large survey of academic engagement with industry has found that knowledge exchange is a major part of university life.   While nearly 70 per cent of engineering and materials departments collaborate with business, the figure in the social sector is about 40 per cent.

Outside looking in.  THE, 25 June 2009.

There has been severe criticism of the external examiner system for some time.  There have been complaints that universities have ignored external examiners' opinions and that standards were too low.  QAA set its own investigation focusing on external examination, concluding that higher education in England was “fundamentally sound”.  Geoffrey Alderman, Michael Gross professor of politics comments that “It was once true that the academic judgment of an external examiner was final.  This is no longer the case”. There are others who hold a similar opinion to Geoffrey Alderman, “[..] the external examiner is there merely to satisfy procedural requirements [..]” and “In many cases the external examiner does not monitor the general level of marks”, are amongst comments made by academics in this article.  Jon Reynard, chair of the executive committee of the Quality Strategic Network, says that he is not aware of any strong evidence that the current system does not work.  ASKe (Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange, Oxford Brookes)  argue the need to create a system in which academics from different universities meet to compare the quality of students' work and their marking judgments.

Industry body backs colleges’ call for freedom.  TES, FE Focus, 26 June 2009.

The New Engineering Foundation (NEF) is an industry-backed charity that supports vocational education in science and engineering.  NEF has come out in favour of more freedom for colleges, saying that colleges are better placed than the government to understand the needs of employers.

Funding gap with schools is up to 20%, says report.  TES, FE Focus, 26 June 2009.

Colleges have a fifth less money to educate 16-18 year olds than schools.  For a typical sixth form college this equates to about £1 million a year less than it would receive if it were a school.  The government states that the funding gap is nearer 6 per cent, which is at odds with KPMG’s assessment of 10 per cent and AoC’s assessment of 20 per cent.

11% increase in vocational qualifications sets new record.  TES, FE Focus, 26 June 2009.

There is a new record of 3.6 million students gaining vocational qualifications, says a new report published by Edge, a charity promoting vocational education.  The increase is due to more NVQs being awarded through Train to Gain and higher success rates in apprenticeships.  Foundation degrees have increased by nearly 30 per cent.

Sixth form colleges to bac a rounder education.  TES, FE Focus, 26 June 2009.

A sixth form baccalaureate is being developed, designed to differentiate the educational experience of their students.  Despite the title the bac will not be a qualification, but a quality mark for the high achieving and rounded education that sixth form colleges market.