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Sector News, 22 - 26 February 2010

Foundation degrees offer a strong vision for the future.  Education Guardian, 23 February 2010.

Opinion, Estelle Morris

Estelle Morris comes down in favour of changing what universities do rather than cutting courses when universities are faced with a reduction in funding.  Whilst bemoaning the number of changes that have been imposed upon vocational education in this country, she points to the huge success of the foundation degrees and comments that universities would do well to learn from the structure of these courses.


Tug of war looms over sixth-formers.  Education Guardian, 23 February 2010.

There is growing concern with some college managers that local councils will favour sixth forms over colleges of FE when local authorities gain control of 16-19 funding.  They point to evidence that 55 schools have been granted permission to open sixth forms against the wishes of local colleges.  There are, however, many who feel that the collaboration between FE and Sixth Forms which has been growing over the last ten years will continue.


The shape of skills to come.  Education Guardian, 23 February 2010.

Along with the Further Education Strategy Group (FERSG), a group which aims to enhance the reputation of FE, the Guardian held a seminar to discuss FE’s role in supporting the economy.  The seminar took place to discuss the issues surrounding a Guardian supplement Working Together which we reported during the week 1st to 5th February.  The links takes you directly to the FERSG web site where the supplement is published in full.  During discussions a number of points were raised, some examples of which are shown below:

  •  general agreement on FE’s flexibility and responsiveness,
  • new qualifications and credit framework accepted as a good thing but questions raised about funding (which is whole course only),
  • need to improve discussion forums with employers,
  • US system of centring around community colleges stated as an example to aspire to,
  • tax breaks required for employers who train staff.

Mind the gap.  THE, 25 February 2010.

Universities have been blamed for having admissions procedures which are biased against poorer applicants.  The Universities on their part blame the school system which does not get enough poor pupils up to the academic level required to enter university.   Whatever the reason it does appear that students from a low socio economic class do not generally attend university in sufficient numbers.  Those that do often attend universities with low status, are more likely to live at home and often take paid work to supplement the cost of a university education.  “Paid work is associated with less involvement in extracurricular activities, fewer hours of study and lower levels of satisfaction”.  A report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, IOE and the London School of Economics concludes that when poorer students have the right level of achievement they are just as likely to go to university as those from higher socio economic backgrounds. What happens before 16 is where the widening participation challenge should be met.  Nearly 10 per cent of pupils with top level GCSEs do not progress to any from of education and as  many as 35 per cent of those with 7 GCSEs do not go any further.   Research by the Hepi trust suggests that it is the poorer students amongst the high achievers who do not progress.   The national Council for Educational Excellence reported to the Government that widening participation requires more than a debate on fair access.

See also Leader, The big push must come early”.

The Hepi Report on work and learning is also covered in this week’s THE under Part-time ‘juggling act’ no panacea for the future”.


HEA cuts threaten future of subject centres.  THE, 25 February 2010.

Fear is growing that the cuts to university funding will affect the Higher Education Academy disproportionately. The Higher Education Academy is the national body for university teaching.  In addition the funding for Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning comes to an end next month, leaving the future for those bodies uncertain.


Podcast: enhancing or replacing normal lectures?  THE, 25 February 2010.  (No Link)

Bournemouth University has requested that its lecturers record their lectures and upload the videos to the university’s website.  This, the management say, will help students who are absent as well as helping disabled students and international students with other commitments.  However, the union marks the request as a move to remove face to face contact with students.


Embrace this high level of industry engagement – it can benefit us all.  THE, 25 February 2010.

Opinion: Frazer Mackenzie, head of school of Applied Production and New Media, Bucks New University.

In the opinion of Frazer Mackenzie, universities should engage with industry to a high level.   He argues that more industrial links during his own degree would have helped him to a greater understanding of what was required by his own industry.  As well as contributing to the academic curriculum, universities could also offer a risk free environment for industry to try out new ides, says Frazer.


Other major features in this week’s THE:

“It’s there – or is it?” Harry Collins research led him to realise that sometimes there is no way of knowing whether the equipment scientists use is working.


Tomlinson turns on Diplomas.  TES, 26 February 2010.

Sir Mike Tomlinson, the man who inspired the Diploma has said that unless the Diplomas undergo major structural reforms they may not meet minister’s ambitions.   The academic version of the Diploma due to be introduced next year will not have sufficient content to make them attractive to universities.


Teaching on the front line:  military gets training course.  TES, 26 February 2010.

In an attempt to stem the shortage of science and technology teachers, soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are being offered teacher training courses.  The Open University, which is running the course, says that there is a considerable amount of technical expertise held by armed forces personnel.


‘Move all science modules to summer’.  TES, 26 February 2010.

A Government commissioned document has called for all A level modular science examinations to be moved to the summer.  This will, the document suggests, avoid disruption to learning and unnecessary resits.   Unsatisfactory levels of English and a low Maths content to science examinations is also expressed as a concern by the report.  “[There] is compelling evidence of a significant gap in perceptions and engagement between specialist organisations which design and deliver qualifications, and the science and teaching communities which provide education”. 


Skills Commission demands single teaching qualification.  TES, FE Focus, 26 February 2010.

A Skills Commission inquiry has said that a universal teaching qualification is needed for staff in both schools and FE.  This would go some way to increasing parity between schools and FE staff and would show that we no longer accept that vocational teaching is somehow second class.  With an increasing demand for vocational qualifications it is important that highly skilled and experienced professionals are able to move into teaching without regulatory obstacles.

See also editorial, Time to end this educational apartheid”.


Save Neets by swapping school for FE, says AoC.  TES, FE Focus, 26 February 2010.

There are calls by Colleges to allow every 14 and 15 year old the option of studying at college rather than school.  There are currently around 83,000 school pupils studying part time in FE and there is evidence that some provision manages to steer over 90 per cent of these pupils into further education and/or training.


Celebrity chef Marco believes apprenticeships cater for the ‘real world’. TES, FE Focus, 26 February 2010.

Despite his admission that his apprenticeship nearly broke him, chef Marco Pierre White is an advocate of the apprenticeship system.  He believes that apprenticeships allow young people to study in the real world.  To support his beliefs he is taking part in a National Apprenticeship Service campaign to promote 5,000 Apprenticeship Grants for Employment.