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Sector News, 25 - 29 May 2009

Admitting defeat.  Education Guardian, 26 May 2009.

Admission tutors in universities face a plethora of different qualifications submitted by students for places in HE.  There are A-levels with A* coming on stream, the Baccalaureate, university entrance examinations, qualifications from FE and soon the Diploma.  In addition, many students submit personal statements as part of their applications.  The result is a variety of approaches by different universities to what they will accept or not.   There are also differences of opinion amongst university admissions tutors as to the worth of each of these qualifications, leaving students in some doubt as to what is required to obtain a place in their chosen university.

Recession could hit college degrees.  Education Guardian, 26 May 2009.

Much of further education college degree work is franchised to them by universities.  College degree level study accounts for approximately 10% of higher education.  Now there are worries that universities will withdraw from these arrangements because of the stringent limit placed on HE recruitment.  Making matters worse, is the demise of adult education within FE, adult education being seen as an alternative route to HE for some adults.  Fears are that universities will return to a strategy of offering places to 18 years olds with A levels rather than widening participation through access to further education. 

Goal difference.  Education Guardian, 26 May 2009.

Thames Valley, Bedfordshire and London Metropolitan universities are using a charity, Youth at Risk, to help them keep young offenders on courses and keeping out of trouble.  “Rather than explicitly seek out students who the universities think might be at risk of dropping out, the project takes the form of coaching similar to that offered to executives in the corporate world”.

Teaching and research split in ‘perfect’ system.  THE, 28 May 2009.

A theoretical model comprising the establishment of teaching-only universities has been drawn up by two economists and submitted for consideration to the Royal Economic Society (RES).  The idea is that research funding should be concentrated on a few elite powerhouse universities and fund a large number of universities to become teaching-only.

Imperial scraps languages in course review.  THE, 28 May 2009.

All beginners' language courses at Imperial College London are to be cut, along with Arabic, Italian, Japanese and Russian which are to disappear by 2010-11.  Several other universities are also cutting language provision after a shortfall in language budgets following allocations that saw science benefit at the expense of humanities.

Watchdog makes case for a guard with teeth, but will it have the bite?  THE, 28 May 2009.

Opinion: Geoffrey Alderman, Michael Grove professor of politics and contemporary history, University of Buckingham.

More in the on-going saga of falling standards in universities. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has published a report on the subject “Thematic Enquiries into Concerns about Academic Quality and Standards in Higher Education in England” (April 2009).  At Government level the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee have been sufficiently concerned to launch an enquiry into allegations of “dumbing down”.  Geoffrey Alderman is of the opinion that the QAA report’s recommendations on assessment are serious and long overdue.  However, he expresses doubt that the proposals will be implemented by all universities.

‘Wholesale’ job losses predicted.  TES, FE Focus, 29 May 2009.

FE colleges do not have the funding they require to deliver what they need.  The likely outcome is that half of colleges will be categorised as economically unviable within the next two years.  The Government has announced an extra £300 million for capital projects and a further £140 million for adult teaching and learning in2010-11.  However, it has also requested efficiency savings of £240 million in 2010 plus £100 million from central administration.

Public and private sectors diverge on training aims.  TES, FE Focus, 29 May 2009.

An inquiry into the future of lifelong learning commissioned by NIACE has found that employers spend money on short courses to improve productivity and not to improve the qualifications of their staff through schemes such as Train to Gain.  The private sector, used to deliver these courses, has radically different aims to those of the Learning Skills Council.  Tom Schuller, director of the inquiry, said that there is potential for taking over private providers, or for colleges to work more closely with them, many providers being barely viable.

Union chief to call for new deal on lifelong learning.  TES, FE Focus, 29 May 2009.

There should be genuine lifelong learning opportunities for all and a universal right to higher education.  So says Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union.  The union is calling on MPs to look again at lifelong learning opportunities stating that charging, particularly in times of recession, “is no more than the rationing of hope”.

Raising low skill levels is the way to riches.  TES, FE Focus, 29 May 2009.

Comment, Matilda Gosling, Senior Manager for Research and Policy, City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development.

Matilda Gosling’s centre is concerned that Train to Gain “is a blunt tool”.  Too few employers have taken up Train to Gain for groups and there is far too much assessment for the amount of training offered.  In short the Government is failing to support low skilled people in their first steps towards increasing their skills.  It is Matilda’s opinion that the Government should provide training specifically for the unskilled and low paid.