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Sector News, 23 - 27 November 2009

We all hate Ofsted, right?  Education Guardian, 23 November 2009.

A scathing article on the failings of Ofsted, although the author has some sympathy with the organisation.  Citing the recent case of two mothers who were threatened with legal action because they looked after each other's children, Michele Ledda, blames the over reaction of governments who dictate the systems used by Ofsted. 

Duty of care.  Education Guardian, 24 November 2009.

Many universities offering a degree level nursing course will see a 30 per cent drop out rate and at two universities the drop out rate last year was as high as 78 per cent and 54 per cent respectively.  Whilst degree level nursing is already happening in Scotland and Wales, in England the majority of nurses take a diploma route lasting three years.  There are a number of factors blamed for this high drop out rate amongst which is the average age for nurses being 30.  Older students have mortgages and childcare responsibilities that are not easily combined with degree level work.  There are others who believe that isolation is a major factor, particularly when on placement in hospitals and there are those would-be nurses who do not feel that they are academic enough to cope with the rigours of a degree.

University of the Third Age takes off.  Education Guardian, 24 November 2009.

The University of the Third Age (U3A) is growing, with new classes opening every week.  Further education’s loss of adult classes has been U3A’s gain and even where classes exist in further education, U3A can offer similar provision which is cheaper.  However, the organisation is keen to point out that price is not the only factor persuading the older generation to join in. 

Anti-racism initiatives are failing to have an effect off campus.   Education Guardian, 24 November 2009.

There have been a number of projects at UK universities aimed at eliminating racist behaviour.  However, whilst the courses and events such as “black history week” put on under this banner are popular, the success of the anti-racist campaigns has been limited.  Now, a number of universities are wondering whether to continue in cash- strapped times.

Private versus public.  THE, 26 November 2009.

A large section of this week’s THE reports on the growing success of private higher education organisations and the threat they could pose to traditional universities.

The leader, Competing is fine but make it fair”, summarises the features by commenting that according to the British Accreditation Council, 75 per cent of private sector HE providers charge the standard state tuition fee but offer considerably more teaching  to their students.  This might be the reason why private institutions have seen an increase from 29 million students to 153 million in the past 35 years.  The private sector offers places to students who might not otherwise go to university, either because there are insufficient places for them in state universities or because the students do not have the requisite qualifications.  However, private bodies, especially not-for profit organisations, tend to offer subjects which are cheaper to run than the science and engineering subjects.

See also Fourth private body wins right to award degreesand Market grows in strength as states run out of cash”.

The major features the leader refers to are, Global revolution”, where fast expanding private provision in HE is discussed, and The American lesson: How to be top which explains how Ivy leagues institutions rose to greatness after being cut off from state aid and meddling.

Deprivation does not deter Scottish students.  THE, 26 November 2009.

Scotland may have seen a dip in overall participation in HE but it does have a good record of attracting students from its poorest areas.  Figures from a report on intake in 2007-08 show that 120 in every 1,000 people from the poorest areas studied at university compared with 117 from more affluent areas.

Framework’s consumer vision ‘mistaken’.  THE, 26 November 2009.

Paul Ramsden, chief executive of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), has said that the Government made a mistake in its plans for the future of higher education by linking it with a consumer driven student experience.  “While praising plans to provide students with better information [..], he warned that [..] critical thinking was not possible if students expected everything to be handed them on a plate”.

Quality systems ‘stifle’ innovation.  THE, 26 November 2009.

A former QAA chief has warned that quality systems, designed to ensure repeatable results, are stifling innovation.  Peter Williams recognises that most students see higher education as a means of getting a better job and that they are suspicious of innovations which may reduce the value of their qualification.   However, he believes that a solution could be to get away from compliance in qualifications to one aimed at achievement of agreed intentions and outcomes.

Managers get down to business.  THE, 26 November 2009.

The Entrepreneurial University Leadership Programme at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School is aiming to teach some senior academics how to run their university as entrepreneurs.  A year long course, costing £13,500, is to be run at Oxford and the University of Nottingham. 

UAE offers A-level tuition to science high-flyers.  THE, 26 November 2009.

In an attempt to attract high flyers from boarding schools, the University of East Anglia is offering campus-based full-time science A level programmes.  The programme offers Cambridge international Examinations for A level students planning to study medicine, engineering, physical science, mathematics and economics and is run in conjunction with INTO University Partnerships.

How to take a financial; crisis and turn it to your advantage.  THE, 27 November 2009.

Opinion: John Ashworth ex vice chancellor of Salford University.

John Ashworth compares today’s political scenarios with those of the Labour government of the late 1970s in which a Conservative party won an election on funding cuts and rolling back state government.  The result was an 18 per cent cut from universities which the UGC (University Grants Committee) did not apply evenly, Salford suffering a 44 per cent cut in funding over three years  Having lived through this at Salford University, he believes that there are lessons to be learned from Salford’s experiences.  He set about building an institution whish was less dependent upon the whims of the UGC in part by creating two bodies CAMPUS and Salford University Business Ltd. The latter being a wholly owned commercial subsidiary of the university.  Through these organisations, and CAMPUS is still operating, he linked the university to business to support university and local development and research.

The Other feature in this week’s THE is “My eureka moment: The wake up call” , Malcolm Gillies explains how a dream about Bartók brought a conceptual break-through.

Colleges fight visa abuse offensive.  TES, FE Focus, 27 November 2009.

Prospective foreign students wishing to take courses lower than degree level would not be able to obtain visas if the rules proposed by the Prime Minister are accepted.  Colleges have about 60,000 students a year who come from abroad, half of whom are from outside the European Union.  Colleges anticipate that this rule would cost them about £30 million in income.   Needless to say, Colleges are challenging the plans.

See also “PM’s overseas student snipe makes waves”, comment, Alan Thomson, Editor FE Focus.

Ofsted identifies basic skills as adult education’s biggest challenge.  TES, FE Focus, 27 November 2009.

Ofsted have said that, literacy, numeracy and Esol are the weakest areas for all providers of adult education.  They cite poor initial assessment, the need to improve provision which is merely satisfactory and to improve the amount of personal; support given to students. The inspectorate’s annual report also shows a decline in the proportion of good and excellent colleges whilst the inadequate provision halved.  Prison education received its best ever rating whilst work based training providers faired the worst

The full report and report commentary can be found using the link: Inspectorate Report.

Private providers could save colleges under Tories.  TES, FE Focus, 27 November 2009.

The Conservative Party have signalled their intention to allow private providers to take over failing colleges.  David Willetts, shadow minister for universities and skills, has said that whilst he wants to free colleges from central control, they must accept a greater degree of competition.  The paper, “The FEFC Funding Model and Skills Accounts”, propose greater autonomy for colleges.  However, the revived FEFC would contract with both colleges and other providers to fund provision.

See also “Tory reforms promise fairer deal on training”, opinion, David Willetts.

FE fees hike is vital to boost sector power, says skills chief.  TES, FE Focus, 27 November 2009.

Chris Humphries, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, has said that colleges lag behind their international counterparts in the amount of revenue they collect through fees.   It is Chris Humphries belief, that colleges should focus on this rather than complaining about Government cuts.  In Canada, Australia and the US the equivalent of UK colleges obtain income from employers of between 20 and 40 per cent of their total income.  In the UK it is estimated that funding from employers amounts to little more than 2 or 3 per cent.