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Sector News, 27 April - 01 May2009

'They're trying to get teaching on the cheap'. Education Guardian, 28 April 2009.

“The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) is gearing up to fight what it sees as the start of a national trend - the replacement of teachers in colleges by assessors.”  Restructuring at Doncaster College could see the loss of 160 jobs, UCU sees this as leading to other colleges attempting to substitute teaching staff with assessors.

LSC office closures to cost £42m.  Education Guardian, 28 April 2009.

The cost of winding up the UKs largest quango is likely to be in the order of £42m.  This has inevitably sparked anger amongst colleges who have seen their building projects ruined and who face tight controls on student funding. 

See also: "A painful death and a £42m debt"

Only a third of students expect a good job offer. Guardian Education, 29 April 2009.

A recent survey of 16,357 university students due to graduate this summer shows that only 36% believe that they will be starting or even looking for a graduate job this year.  As many as 26% intend to start a postgraduate course to ride out the recession. High Fliers Research, say that final-year students due to leave UK universities this summer are gloomy and frustrated about their employment prospects.

Number taking GCSE in English literature falls.  Guardian Education, 29 April 2009.

Only 72% of state school pupils take English literature at GCSE, a decline of 5% compared with figures from 2004.  “Under the national curriculum, all pupils have to study at least one Shakespeare play and a selection of pre-20th century writers, including Jane Austen, William Blake and Charlotte Brontë, within the compulsory English GCSE. But the Tories say that if pupils don't have to do the literature GCSE, they will read only the bare minimum and never develop a love of literature.”

Brits study less than continental cousins.  THE, 30 April 2009.

According to a study by the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information (Cheri), UK students study for fewer hours than their European counterparts. The report was commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council (Hefce) after a survey published in 2007 suggested that English degree were less burdensome than on the continent.

Between kids and classes, study can be a real squeeze.  THE, 20 April 2009.

Sixty per cent of students with children have considered quitting their degree course.  Those polled by the national Union of Students (NUS), have said that financially they have to rely on credit cards to get through their course.  The report “Meet the parents”, outlines the many barriers faced by student parents.

Students say Bologna Process has yet to improve their opportunities.  THE, 30 April 2009.

The Bologna Process was created to improve student opportunities in European universities, but the European Students Union claims that it has not done that.   The Bologna Process aims to provide an EU higher education zone which is equitable, flexible and competitive internationally.   Ján Figel, the European Commissioner for Education has admitted that whilst progress has been good, it has been patchy.

Twitterati in the academy.  THE, 30 April 2009.

Many academics see Twitter, a social networking service, as an example of dumbing down in society.  Yet higher education seems to be taking up the Twitter service, albeit cautiously.  There are academics who see the service as a tool which could improve their work.  An advantage is the network’s ability to link to other websites, blogs and journals.  Chris Brauer, lecturer in online journalism at City University London believes that “Twitter is an ideal virtual communication platform for academics as it can be applied to gathering and analysing data”.

Boston speaks up for Ofqual’s independence.  TES, 01 May 2009.

Ken Boston, former chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), says that by allowing Government observers at its meetings it is at risk of losing its independence.  Observers from the Department for Children, Schools and Families is particularly undermining.  Ken Boston told MPs that the presence of observers at QCA had undermined its authority and the same would happen to Ofqual.

Why focusing on post-16s is not a Neet idea.  TES, 01 May 2009.

Opinion: Sonia Sodha, acting head of the Capabilities Programme at Demos.

The Government has not learned the importance of long term planning, according to Sonia Sodha.  She adds that focusing on short term funding for fear of young people becoming Neets (not in education, employment or training) may be needed but not on its own without a long term strategy for young people.

Building decisions expected next month.  TES, FE Focus, 01 May 2009.

In a continuation of this long running saga, the LSC has said it is about to approve £750 million of college building projects next month.

Call to cut quango funds to boost skills training.  TES, FE Focus, 01 May 2009.

It is expected that Lord Leitch’s targets will not be met at the current rate of progress.  The UK commission for Employment and Skills says that in times of economic stringency, re-allocating existing funds from quangos to front line education and training makes sense. The commission is attempting to find out how much money is taken before funds are allocated to ‘front line’ activities.

UK set to slide in world skills ranking.  TES, FE Focus, 01 May 2009.

Lord Leitch’s proposals stated that being in the top eight of countries for skills would be considered a “world class” performance.  However, the UK faces being ranked 23rd out of 32 states for low level skills, 21st for intermediate skills and 10th for high level skills.  Chris Humphries of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills says that “we have improved against our own history but gone backwards on a relative basis”.

See also: “Stop-starting over skills has UK falling back”.