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Sector News, 24 - 28 January 2011

More A-level students will need A* to get into top universities.  Education Guardian, 25 January 2011.

Bristol, Exeter and Sussex universities are likely to insist that applicants for degree courses achieve an A* at A level.  University College London (UCL), Imperial and Warwick have increased the number of courses requiring the top grade.  Oxford has already stated that it will require A* for fifteen of its courses.  Universities are saying that there is more demand than there are places.

Coalition seeks to introduce post-exam university admissions.  Education Guardian, 25 January 2011.

The government have plans to re-timetable final school examinations so that they are taken weeks earlier than at present as well as pushing back the autumn university term.  Coalition MPs want to overahaul the Ucas system [Universities and Colleges Admissions Service] which relies on predicted grades which many see as inaccurate.  The new system is intended to ensure that places are given on actual grades achieved.

Fees shift could leave UK 'haemorrhaging' cash to EU students.  THE, 27 January 2011.

The new university fees regime has trebled the fee cap at English universities to £9,000 and allows students access to a loan for the fees.  EU students also have access to the UK's publicly funded loans scheme and from 2012-13 this could lead to increasing losses for the taxpayer.  It will be difficult for the government to recoup loans from students outside the UK border.  In addition many EU countries are not as wealthy as the UK and it is highly likely that many EU graduates will not reach the £21,000 threshold required to trigger payment.

Watch this space: pressing deadlines may see prospectuses without prices.  THE, 27 January 2011.

This week universities have issued a warning that they may not be able to print course fees in their prospectuses because of the time that is required to reach agreements on fair access with the regulator.

'Invest £100m' to seize cyber-market.  THE, 27 January 2011.

A report from the government's Online Learning Task Force, which includes experts from Microsoft, Apple and Pearson, calls for an injection of £100 million over five years to expand the UK's online provision and boost its brand.  The report outlines six recommendations for future success, including the use of technology that enhances student choice, greater investment to enable the development of partnerships to achieve "scale and brand in online learning", and the acquisition of "more and better market intelligence about international demand and competition".

Southampton reforms aim to add 'breadth to depth'.  THE, 27 January 2011.

The University of Southampton has said that it will completely reform all its degree courses from 2012-13 to increase the breadth of education available to its undergraduates.  Taking a lead from Aberdeen and Hong Kong, Southampton will arrange its courses so that undergraduates can take subjects outside of their core subjects.  The university has named a set of "graduate attributes" it hopes its students will have acquired by the time they graduate: global citizenship, ethical leadership, research and enquiry skills, academic skills, communication skills and the ability to be "reflective" learners.

Most of all beware ignorance.  THE, 27 January 2011.

Opinion: Kate Smith, lecturer in journalism, Edinburgh Napier University.

Kate Smith argues that Scotland should stand by its pledge for free access to university for Scottish students.  She points to the anomalies that are being thrown up by the current fees regimes where English students face paying £9,000 at home or £6,500 in Scotland while Scottish students face paying nothing at home or £9,000 in England.  However, Kate Smith says: “The wealth of a country is not measured by the gold held in reserve, its strength not by its weapons of mass destruction. Richness and enlightenment comes from the education and character of a people. Universal access to university education is imperative.”  

See also: "Foreign student fees: discrimination that cannot be justified, where William Evans, former secretary and solicitor of the University of the West of England, puts forward the opinion that it is immoral to consider charging overseas student inflated prices to enter UK universities. 

Features in this week’s THE:

In “Turning on the leading lights” Amanda Goodall asks why too few academics are putting themselves forward for the top jobs.

Michael Boylan, professor of philosophy at Marymount University, argues in “Novel forms of thought”, that adding fiction to the analytical toolkit of philosophy can give new ways to study the subject.

Shakespeare as you'll like it, is Dale Salwak’s explanation of how he removes the obstacles that prevent his students connecting with Shakespeare.  Dale Salwak is professor of English, Citrus College, Glendora, California.

 The Arts, THE, 27 January 2011.

"Arguments over space": Until 7 April there is an exhibition of modern British sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.  Alex Dabchez, professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, casts an eye over the exhibition and poses the questions "What is sculpture? How will we know one when we see it or bump into or trip over it?"  In this week's film review Philip Dodd, visiting professor of the arts, London, looks at "Biutiful" directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Hattie Jacques is the subject of Gary Day's TV article.

A great teacher needs more than a good degree.  TES, 28 January 2011.

Comment: Amy Winston, an English teacher at a West Midlands comprehensive.

Amy articulates what must be in a lot of teachers' minds, that Michael Gove’s belief that a good degree is all that is required to be a good teacher is not only incorrect but depressing.

Schools rush to revamp timetables for Ebac.  TES, 28 January 2011.

The Ebac is embroiled in yet another row after the government omitted RE from the list of approved humanities.  Music is also a threatened subject and schools are already re-timetabling reduced RE and music time in the school week or removing the subjects altogether.

Trainee numbers plummet.  TES, 28 January 2011.

“Applications to secondary teacher training courses have collapsed, prompting fears of a recruitment crisis within five years”.  This is the opening statement of the TES report which claims that there has been a 10 per cent drop, year on year, in students applying to become secondary teachers, with some subjects seeing a fall of nearly 40 per cent.  It is thought that fear of public cuts and uncertainty over the future of teacher training will lead to a catastrophic decline in the numbers applying for teacher training courses.

Legal action mooted over EMA ‘breach of contract’.  TES, FE Focus, 28 January 2011.

Students who believe that their two year study contract has been breached by the scrapping of EMA are set to take legal action.  Trade union lawyers are examining whether they can win payments for students who began courses expecting two years of financial support.

Wolf review to cover FE lecturers’ role in schools.  TES, FE Focus, 28 January 2011.

The report on vocational education being conducted by Professor Alison Wolf is to extend its remit to advise on whether FE lecturers should be allowed to teach in schools. Should the report find in favour then, according to Tim Loughton the children’s minister, there could be difficulties created in the light of the government’s expectation that all teachers should have a degree.  However, Mr Loughton also said that it is important that schools have the opportunity to access the type of staffing that they require for particular circumstances and that schools should look at what FE lecturers might bring to the curriculum.

Charity calls for criminal records rethink.  TES, FE Focus, 28 January 2011.       

Nacro, a charity for ex-offenders, has called for colleges to rethink their policies on criminal record checks.  The charity argues that some prospective students are being barred from courses for minor offences for which they have a record but for which they have not been charged.

For better or worse: why the QCF is tying FE up in knots.  TES, FE Focus, 28 January 2011.

When in September 2008, the Labour government introduced the QCF (Qualification and Credit Framework) it replaced the National Credit Framework.  The idea drawn up with the help of employers and FE was aimed at recognising smaller steps of learning and to enable students to build up qualifications bit by bit.  Unfortunately, the QCF have so far only created confusion.  The framework covers courses up to level 8 from basic entry level but, confusion about what each qualification represents, has created a situation in which employers and university admissions offices find it difficult to decipher what the qualification on the CV in front of them represents.  Many of the problems stem from the changes to ‘wording’ of qualifications, for example, what was an Edexcel level 3 BTEC national diploma in health and social care is, under the new framework, known as an extended diploma (equivalent to three A-levels).  National certificates are now diplomas (two A-levels) and national awards are subsidiary diplomas (one A-level).