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Sector News, 25 - 29 January 2010

University without A-levels.  Education Guardian, 26 January 2010.

It may not come as a surprise to some of us but, a report published last week by Professor John Hills of the London School of Economics, says that economic background is still a factor in determining a person’s success.  Unfortunately, this latest finding does not fit well with Government plans to cut university funding and limit access to students.  Christine Gregory of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers comments that it will be impossible to meet Lord Mandelson’s target of increased participation alongside funding cuts.  The paper goes on to highlight the success of students who have had a difficult start in life.

Colleges fear course costs will rise again.  Education Guardian, 26 January 2010.

Further education is becoming more expensive and it is apparent that students and employers will have to pay more for the provision.  Despite Government assurances that the FE budget will not be cut, it is hard to see how further costs to FE will not be passed on in what amounts to a standstill budget.  Chris Banks, chair of the Learning and Skills Council, says that a Government review, due to be published in June, will almost certainly demand more funds from participants.  The effects of all this is open to conjecture. There are many instances of colleges already losing large numbers of adults and examples where even vocational courses have suffered a loss of income despite a rise in fees.  The National Union of Students believes that colleges may be forced to concentrate on profitable courses in the future leading to a loss of provision.  Yet others think that employers will pay more if they are convinced that the quality is right.

Is survival all that matters?  THE, 28 January 2010.

The impending cut to university budgets is still exercising the minds of universities and reporters alike. In this week’s leader, the THE makes the point that even if universities become more competitive they will still receive the majority of their funding from the taxpayer and as such will have to continue to provide a good public service.

The age of entitlement economics is over – the sector must compete.  THE, 28 January 2010.

Opinion, Mike Boxall, PA Consulting Group.

Mike Boxall argues that universities must stop asserting that they have a special place in higher education.  He believes that changes to our concepts of higher education are inevitable and necessary.  In the Government’s higher education framework paper, “Higher Ambitions”, it was made clear that universities are now regarded as one group amongst many who are able to support public objectives.  As such, universities will have to compete for funding.  There is much that has changed over the years and much that needs to be changed particularly in employer attitudes to HE, most seeing themselves as beneficiaries rather than funders of higher education.  Open access via the net will become more popular and will lead to DIY learning models.  However, there is more to a university education than content including the experience of learning with peers and scholars.  It seems that students, universities and employers all want different experiences from HE and these varying pressures will force change.

Participation gap narrows between yuong rich and poor.  THE, 28 January 2010.

Although just 19 per cent of teenagers from England’s most deprived areas attend university compared with 57 per cent from more affluent areas, the gap is closing, according to a report from Hefce. The report shows that participation rates from those in deprived areas is rising more rapidly than those from more advantaged backgrounds.  In addition the report suggests that the gender gap is also narrowing.

Revisions aim to develop a wider view of the world.  THE, 28 January 2010.

King’s College London and the University of Warwick are testing a series of modules that they claim could force an overhaul of teaching and learning.  They hope to embed into the curriculum academic literacy, global connectedness, interdisciplinary work and a research rich environment.

Other articles in this weeks THE:

We did it before, David Greenaway, professor of economics and vice chancellor, University of Nottingham, looks at the ways in which universities can diversify their funding streams.

Small places matter more than big ones, an investigation into the impact of geography on democracy.

It’s in the cards, an article about Bob Blaisdell’s obsession with index cards.

New style A-levels risk repeat of grading scandal, ministers warned.  TES, 29 January 2010.

Independent school heads are concerned that the new A-levels will suffer from the same grading scandal that hit the Government in 2002.  The crisis in 2002 led to the resignation of the education minister Estelle Morris and the sacking of Sir William Stubbs, chair of QCA.  There are already warning signs of trouble ahead with many pupils already receiving grades lower than expected.

Oxford admissions don: ‘Laura Spence will happen all over again’.  TES, 29 January 2010.

When Laura Spence, a straight As at A level student, was refused a place at Magdalen College, it caused a fuss.  However, the college is unapologetic and says that there are insufficient places for all bright students and such a scenario could occur again.

Colleges face restructuring as 25% budget cuts loom.  TES, FE Focus, 29 January 2010.

Further cuts to the adult education budget are likely to force about one third of colleges to restructure.  Both the Association of Colleges and the 157 Group of leading colleges say that there are worrying signs that up to 25 per cent of some colleges budgets may be cut.

See also “Ministers accused of ‘fancy footwork' on funding rise” where the paper reports that the shadow skills secretary’s promise of a 2 per cent rise in adult education is misleading.

Door to teaching in schools remains closed to FE staff.  TES, FE Focus, 29 January 2010.

The Training and Development Agency for School has said that it cannot relax its degree only entry requirement for teachers in schools.  The effect of this is to seriously hamper attempts to gain parity between school and FE teachers. Up to 70 per cent of FE teachers do not have a degree.  Tory plans to make a 'masters' the minimum entry requirement will further exacerbate the situation.

300 jobs axed in revised prison education deal.  TES, FE Focus, 29 January 2010.

In what may not become an isolated case, Manchester College has withdrawn its threat to quit two prison education contracts but at a cost of 300 jobs.  Whilst the college accepts that prison education will suffer under the new proposals it sees the cuts as necessary at a time of severe financial pressure.

Black marks for CPD eluders not sanctions, says IfL.  TES, FE Focus, 29 January 2010.

Around 37 per cent of lecturers in FE have still not declared their professional development record.  However, the Institute for Learning (IfL) have said that those who have not declared will not this year face more serious sanctions but, will have what amounts to a black mark placed on their record.

Foundation campaign bids to add vocational Edge to election.  TES, FE Focus, 29 January 2010.

“A major public consultation has been launched in a bid to influence politicians' thinking ahead of the general election”. Edge, the vocational foundation has proposed six steps to make education more practical, in summary:

  • learning in the real world,
  • replacing Sats with a profile,
  • students to choose educational route (at 14),
  • ensuring excellent facilities and teachers for all vocational courses,
  • student to specialise at 16,
  • and the creation of centres of vocational excellence in HE.

Time to build up the apprenticeship brand.  TES, FE Focus, 29 January 2010.

Comment: Kevin Brennan, minister for further education, skills, apprenticeships and consumer affairs.

Kevin Brennan points to the rise in apprenticeships in England, from 65,000 in 1996/97 to 240,000 in 2998/09 saying that apprenticeships have changed the lives of millions and provided a major boost to many businesses.   However, far from sitting on our laurels, we need to build on this success.  In December, the new “Specification of Apprenticeship Standards in England”, will set out the minimum requirement for all English Apprenticeships.  In addition the Government has invited bids through NAS (National Apprenticeship Service) for a share of a £7m fund for 15 new Apprenticeship Training Agencies.