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Sector News, 24 - 28 November 2008

The ‘quickie’ route to qualifications.  Education Guardian, 25 November 2008.

More on the further education colleges new found freedom to award HE qualifications.  Colleges are considering offering a two year vocational degree (as first reported in the THE on 6 November).  The degrees will follow on from students first studying a Btec award or one of the new diplomas.   Successful students would graduate with a Bachelor of Vocational Studies (BVS), which colleges argue would offer a distinct alternative to foundation degrees.

A two year degree would affordable to more students.  Education Guardian, 25 November 2008.

Comment: Geoffrey Alderman, Michael Gross professor of politics and contemporary history, University of Buckingham.

Geoffrey Alderman puts forward economic arguments to support the introduction of two year degrees at university.  The cap on university tuition fees must be raised (he says).  However,  the cost to students would be considerable without Government assistance, which is unlikely under the current economic climate.

Diplomas receive a boost.  THE, 27 November 2008.

The THE’s “The week in education” reports on a Daily Telegraph article of the 21 November.  Oxford and Cambridge universities have said that they will take students with the new advanced diploma in engineering.  However, they have also stated that applicants with the new diploma will have to take an A level in physics as well.

Tories slam new participation ‘red tape burden’.  THE, 27 November 2008.

The Conservative party have severely criticised a new requirement for universities to report on their widening participation strategies.  Up to 2004, university funding for widening participation was dependant upon strategies being reported.  This requirement was removed to reduce administrative burden, it is now being re-introduced.

Equality strategy needed.  THE, 27 November 2008. Opinion, Kevin Fong. Physiology lecturer, University College London, junior doctor and co-director of the Centre for Aviation, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine.

Kevin Fong finds fault with both the USA’s ‘affirmative action’ strategy and the passive approach displayed by British universities.  In Britain, he argues, universities attempt to get underrepresented groups through the door, but do little to support them afterwards.  The US approach he finds too extreme.

The class of 2020? THE, 27 November 2008.

One of this week's major articles, the THE investigates the arguments for and against the idea that universities should be preparing a ready made work force for industry. Academics, understandably, see higher education as empowering the individual and recognising intellectual development.  Furthermore they see a university’s role as providing a learning environment, not as a training camp for business.  The CBI points to the constant complaints by the commercial sector that students lack the skills required to be successful at work.

See also the inset detail “What is a business facing university” and “Adapting to the Leitch agenda”.  The “Leitch Report” was published in 2006.  (Last link is to a summary of the Leitch Report).

New AQA Bacc passes heads’ test. TES, 28 November 2008.

To gain an AQA Bacc, students have to take three A levels in any subject and an AS level in either general studies or citizenship.  In addition they have to complete an extended project and enrichment activities such as work related learning, community participation or personal development, for example sports or music.  AQA says that they 100 schools have been accredited to offer its qualification next year.

Diplomas threaten our independence.  TES, 28 November 2008.

Comment, Dr Bernard Trafford, Head of the Royal Grammar Schools, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Dr Trafford believes that the new Diplomas are fine for those wanting to follow a vocational route but Diplomas should not be forced upon those for whom an academic route is more desirable. His arguments are based on a number of issues surrounding the Diploma, but high on the agenda is the blurring of the distinction between academic and vocational.

Bullied into Ifl membership? TES, FE Focus, 28 November 2008.

All further education college staff are required to join Ifl (Institute for Learning) and take 30 hours of professional development per year.  In a survey of the Ifl (6,500 respondents) 47% said that they had joined because their employers required it.  Whilst many welcomed the opportunity to join the organisation there were a number of dissenting voices.  Fears concerning the use of membership to remove the need for teacher training and expression from those who feel that they have been forced to join are amongst the negative issues highlighted.

See also ‘Sorry if our service isn’t what it could be’. Toni Fazaeli, Chief Executive, Ifl.

Post sixteen qualifications.  TES, Magazine, 28 November 2008.

Four qualifications for post sixteen students are compared, A–levels, International Baccalaureate, Pre-U and Diplomas.  Each item looks at popularity, when introduced, UCAS points, subjects studied per qualification, number of subjects available, flexibility, universities attitude and finally produces a short verdict on each.  (Each item discussed in more depth in the text).