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Sector News, 27 - 31 July 2009

Mandelson delivers warning on university funding.  The Independent, 27 July 2009.

In a speech to university vice-chancellors at Birkbeck University in central London, Lord Mandelson said: "I do not believe that we can separate the issues of fees, access and student support.  Any institution that wants to use greater cost to the student to fund excellence must face an equal expectation to ensure that its services remain accessible to more than just those with the ability to pay." According to the Independent “ [This] is likely to be taken as the strongest indication yet that the Government is looking at raising the cap on tuition fees".

This story is also published in The Telegraph under the headline "Universities should take more poor pupils if fees are to rise, says Mandelson", and  in The Times newspaper under the heading "Universities must stop failing working class".


Is academic plagiarism being hidden?  Education Guardian, 28 July 2009.

There have been many warnings and threats to students on the issue of plagiarism.  Incidents of reported student plagiarism are at an all time high, often with students taking information from the web.  However, there is doubt concerning the level of plagiarism involving academic papers.  


We must invest in creativity not just stem subjects.  Education Guardian, 28 July 2009.

Comment: Professor Elaine Thomas, vice chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts.

Professor Thomas explains that it is a mistake to concentrate on sciences and technology at the expense of the arts. She states subjects which will support the economic growth of Britain will require that the creative industries are in a good position.  This opinion is supported by the Digital Britain report.  Furthermore, Professor Thomas points to the UK’s creative industry which is the largest in the EU relative to GDP and probably the largest in the world.


Universities are failing students with vocational qualifications.  Education Guardian, 28 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Hayward, of Oxford University’s education department, says (that his research shows) that students with vocational qualifications are less likely to obtain places in a top university and many are likely to drop out.  His view is that vocational students should take an A level alongside their qualifications or consider apprenticeships.  He also believes that more funding should go to less well off institutions to which vocational styudents tend to apply.


Number of NHS apprenticeships set to treble.  Education Guardian, 28 July 2009.

NHS apprenticeships will increase to more than 5,000 after the government announced £25m for NHS organisations.  The increase is part of the commitment given by the Government in February to increase the number of public sector apprentices by 21,000 and make the option more mainstream.


Extra places plus clearing changes could equal poaching.  THE, 30 July 2009.

Changes in clearing this year will give students with higher than expected A level grades the option to explore possibilities of trading up to a more selective institution.   When this change was announced it was thought that it would have little impact because the number of places to trade up to was small.  However, the Government’s 10,000 extra places scheme has raised fears of poaching.  Concern has also been expressed that nearly all of the extra places will be allocated during clearance. Adding to the problems are some the top universities,including Oxford, Cambridge and UCL, rejecting the plans to increase places.

See also: "Top universities reject Gordon Brown's extra places plan" , Daily Telegraph, 30 July 2009.


Wanted: free dogsbodies.  THE, 20 July 2009.

Opinion: Amy Binns, lecturer in media, University of Huddersfield.

Amy believes that there are too may companies offering internships as a way of getting students to work for free.  While she agrees that some internships are excellent, there are many that are exploitative.


Experience is not enough.  THE, 30 July 2009.

Opinion: Stefano Harvey, chair in strategy, culture and society, Schoopl of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London.

“Stefano Harvey argues that as long as business schools are overawed with real world success, they will not offer the insights industry needs”.  He argues that business schools should develop a duty of care to workers and teach responsible business practices that help and sustain employment. 


From where I sit - Measuring the unmeasurable.  THE, 30 July 2009.

Opinion: Michael Bérubé, Paterno Family professor in literature, Pennsylvania State University.

Michael Bérubé talks about assessment from a humanities standpoint, expressing the view that direct questions by assessors do not sit well with humanities teaching. Humanities teachers, he says, believe in critical thinking but find it hard to define exactly what this is.  “We believe that education in the humanities consists of training in how to think and in developing a richer language for thought, but all the instruments agree: we cannot prove it, we cannot show the 'value-added' aspects of a humanities education”.


Other articles in the week's THE:

Love me love my work, discusses relationships within academic work (e.g. marriage).

Dream date with Carrie’s Big (Apple), a visit to New York.

Never again, one man’s view of the early nuclear tests and the ignorance which made it so dangerous for the witnesses.


Radical rethink: MP Phil Willis on the frustrations of his inquiry into higher education.  The Independent, 30 July 2009.

A soon to be published report by the Liberal MP Phil Willis is expected to be critical of universities. “The whole system needs a radical rethink because it is not sustainable” says the MP.  He also believes that we need a major investigation into higher education.  In this article Phil Willis puts forward his major concerns about HE including the frustration he developed when questioning representatives of universities.


 Fundamentalist exams on a par with A-levels.  TES, 31 July 2009.

The National Recognition Information Centre (Naric) has judged that exams for an evangelical Christian curriculum are on a par with A-levels.  Originating in Texas in the 1970s, the course based around Accelerated Christian Education, teaches that the Loch Ness monster disproves evolution and that racial segregation is beneficial.


Approved capital projects must cut costs by £50m.  TES, FE Focus, 31 July 2009.

Once again the LSC has approved capital projects which cost more than its budget.  The LSC has had difficulties separating seven colleges’ bids to secure the extra £500m, and has agreed to fund each of the projects, bringing the cost to £547m. Colleges will now be required to cut costs to bring about savings of £50m.


 MPs fear for colleges with more debts than income.  TES, FE Focus, 31 July 2009.

MPs have warned that a number of colleges face difficult times in a report on capital funding.   Twenty three colleges have borrowed more than 40 per cent of their income and three colleges have borrowed an amount equal to or more than their expected income.


Ofsted gives two weeks’ notice to see trainers in normal state.  TES, FE Focus, 31 July 2009.

Whilst stopping short of the threat to have no-notice inspection regimes, Ofsted have said that they will turn up for inspections with just two weeks notice.   Whilst this is unlikely to be a major concern for colleges, for work-based learning providers this could come as a major shock. To date they have had 12 weeks notice.

See also:  “Ofsted is back with ‘no more Mr Nice Guy’”.