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Sector News, 28 February - 04 March 2011

Are university technical colleges the next big thing?  Education Guardian, 01 March 2011.

Kenneth Baker is back.  The one time education minister during the Thatcher era who brought in the Great Education Reform Bill has been asked to breathe new life into technical schools.  Technical schools never got off the ground but, Lord Baker believes that the new concept of (confusingly) university technical colleges will be a huge success.  Lord Baker wants to see 100 by 2015 and hopes that the figure will rise rapidly to 200 or 300.


FE Colleges hit by more cuts.  Education Guardian, 01 March 2011.

A few days before Christmas the news was leaked that entitlement funding which covers such items as pastoral care, tutorials and extra curricular activities for 16 – 19 year olds is to be scrapped.  The news came as a shock to many colleges coupled as it was with the loss of the Educational Maintenance Awards.  Heads and principals are concerned that students will lose activities such as (for example) work experience and Duke of Edinburgh Award schemes.  Many of these extra curricular activities are seen as important in enhancing students' applications to universities.


£6K must be ceiling, survey told Browne.  THE, 03 March 2011.

Unpublished research commissioned by the Browne Review and obtained by “Times Higher Education” under the “Freedom of Information Act” showed that students and parents viewed tuition fees of £6,000 as "the highest reasonable amount".  It was feared that variable fees would deter poor students from high-priced courses and universities.  However, the sole piece of research commissioned by the Browne panel was not referred to in the final report.

See also: “D’oh! State of anxiety as coalition realises fees sums don’t add up”.  Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute expresses the opinion that the Government has got it sums wrong when it expected that the average fees charged by universities would be around £7,500.  Mr Bekhradia believes that the cost to the Government of their HE policy could be far more than they anticipated.


Willetts set to widen pool of degree-awarding bodies.  THE, 03 March 2011.

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, has said that private companies could award new qualifications such as "BTEC degrees".  Mr. Willetts believes that competition rather than legislation is the best way to keep fees under control.  However, the minister has warned to legislate to keep a wide range of fee levels.


Reforms may turn scholars into academic 'lap dancers’.  THE, 03 March 2011.

A history professor at Cambridge, Richard Drayton, has said that “Humanities academics are in danger of being reduced to 'intellectual lap dancers' by the radical changes to higher education in England”.  The professor bemoans the lack of opposition shown by academics to what he sees as a centralised attack on the humanities.


'Suspect' Offa letter threatens sector's freedom.  THE, 03 March 2011.

A letter of guidance to Offa from Charles Clarke, the education secretary in 2004, made it clear that the law puts universities' admissions policies and procedures outside Offa's remit. However, a guidance letter sent last month by Vince Cable, the business secretary, and David Willetts, the universities and science minister, contradicts Charles Clarke’s earlier edict.  The Government is now being accused of trying to remove a basic academic freedom and attempting to control admissions.


'UK doesn't want us, let's go elsewhere'.  THE, 03 March 2011.

According to Anthony Pollock, chief executive of the Australian international student-recruitment agency IDP Education, the proposed changes to the UK’s visa regulations have already deterred students from applying to UK universities.  That this situation is almost certain to get worse is a view also held by the Higher Education Policy Institute.


Features in this week’s THE.

“If I were you, Mr. Willetts...”: Simon Baker reports on the views of seven former ministers who offer their recommendations to a Government that has just announced that it is delaying its agenda for HE change.  See also: Leader, “In a storm of its own making

They’ve started, but will they finish?”:  The graduation rate in US community colleges is only about 33%.  The article looks at what is being done to improve this figure.


The Arts.  THE, 03 March 2011.

Comment is made about “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, which Dominic Shellard, vice chancellor of De Montfort University, describes as a “poignant and peerless production”. This is no flattery” is Peter J. Smith’s take on “As You Like It” at the Rose Theatre Kingston.  Peter J. Smith is reader in Renaissance literature at Nottingham Trent University.  Finally, Gary Day’s “Daytime TV slot”, headed “The True Story: The Exorcist” gives an amusing insight to  the background of “The Exorcist” which was first shown in 1973.


SEN green paper will call for training overhaul.  TES, 04 March 2011.

Teacher training is about to be hit with another government edict.  It is expected that a green paper to be published on Tuesday will call for PGCE courses to be improved and for more SEN experts in the classroom.  The paper will also call for changes in the way SEN pupils are assessed.


Purge of Ofqual and the ‘useless qualifications’ in ministers’ sights.  TES, 04 March 2011.

It is being reported widely that Government ministers are considering removing courses which they insist have no value and are used merely to enhance league table positions.  Ministers are of the opinion that many (if not all) vocational courses are not fit for purpose and they blame Ofqual for the current state of affairs.  Professor Alison Wolfe, director of public services and management at Kings College London, has said that “asking Ofqual to decide whether individual qualifications were ‘any good’ was not appropriate for an unelected and unaccountable agency”.  Her report outlines the explosion in vocational qualifications which she insists is the result of a regulatory structure that is not fir for purpose.


Lecturers’ banishment from schools is to end.   TES, FE Focus, 04 March 2011.

The Wolf Review of 14-19 Vocational Education published yesterday, has called for the removal of obstacles which prevent FE lecturers from teaching in schools.  This will remove an anomaly whereby school teachers can work in Colleges of FE but their counterparts cannot teach in schools.  Alison Wolf is also appalled by the low number of 16-19 year old pupils who do not have a good GCSE in mathematics and English.

Key points of the review are:

·         QTLS status to be recognised in schools.

·         16 to 19-year-olds without good GCSEs in English and maths to be required to take steps towards achieving this.

·         Fixed levels of funding per student for vocational qualifications.

·         Focus on “employment outcomes” rather than merely on “the accrual of qualifications”.

·         Subsidies for employers who take on apprentices.

·         Legal right of colleges to enrol under-16s to be made explicit.

·         No requirement for qualifications to comply with qualifications and credit framework.

                                                                                                                     (From TES)


Applications double in last-minute rush on EMA.  TES, FE Focus, 04 March 2011.

The number of applications for the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) has nearly doubled from Dec 2009 which saw 7,339 applicants to Dec 10 with 14,617 applicants.  The effects of the surge are likely to cost the Government an extra £5 million.


Right, you ’orrible apprentices! Red Caps sign up trainees.  TES, FE Focus, 04 March 2011.

An apprenticeship geared towards military policing has been drawn up in collaboration with Royal Military Police whose members are known as Red Caps because of the colour of their beret.  The apprenticeship will teach generic policing duties.