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Sector News, 28 March - 01 April 2011

Michael Gove unveils cutprice replacement for EMAs. Education Guardian, 28 March 2011.

The previous budget for the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was £560 million. Michael Goves has cut that figure by two thirds to £180 million, although this is better than was expected. “Each college will next academic year receive a fixed sum, based on the college's previous EMA grant. College principals will distribute funds to students, with guidelines from the Department for Education stressing the money should go to cover food, travel and equipment. Gove argues that college leaders were best placed to know those students in need of help”.

Wikipedia wants more contributions from academics. Education Guardian, 29 March 2011.

According to Wikipedia, academics are very likely to look at the on line encyclopedia but just as unlikely to contribute. To find out why this situation occurs, Wikipedia is to run a survey with the long term aim to involve more academics in contributing to the site.

Staffordshire University teaches degree course in prison. Education Guardian, 29 March 2011.

Staffordshire University is running a foundation degree in offender management. What makes this course different is that it is delivered ‘on-site’ in Dovegate prison. The course is for prison officers during working hours and the fees are currently funded by Serco the group that runs the prison.

Apprentices … you are needed at your workstation. Education Guardian, 29 March 2011.

The Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (Sase) will require every apprentice to receive up to 280 hours of guided learning (time in education and training, away from their usual duties) each year”. Whilst vocational training has fared better than most in terms of funding, the number of hours away from work it is feared will stop employers, particularly in small and medium size businesses, taking on apprentices.

Make tax relief for training pay. Education Guardian, 29 March 2011.

Opinion; Tom Wilson, director of unionlearn

A paper issued by Howard Reed of Landman Economics and commissioned by unionlearn, shows that there is little to evidence to suggest that vocational funding is focused on the most effective training courses, or that it is reaching those who most need it. Currently tax relief for training is only available to those who pay corporation tax and it is not targeted at any specific type of training.  Tom Wilson believes that there is a case for reforming the tax system, making tax relief available to those who target the low skilled and low paid and targeted at returns such as obtaining accreditation.

State threats over fee levels may backfire. THE, 31 March 2011.

Senior sector figures have warned that universities are calculating their fee levels to make up for what they see as a distinct possibility of withdrawal of funding in the future. David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said last month that "if graduate contributions end up higher than £7,500, the government would find savings from elsewhere in the HE budget. One possibility is to restrict student numbers another to further cut the teaching grant.

Inspectors call after whistleblower warnings over LCC closures. THE, 31 March 2011.

A full investigation is being undertaken by QAA into the reasons for and the effects of, the closure of 16 courses and 26 full-time equivalent redundancies at the London College of Communication. The agency investigates concerns when it thinks they might indicate "serious systemic or procedural shortcomings by the institution or institutions involved". 

Watchdog gets new set of teeth. THE, 31 March 2011.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) will introduce a system of institutional reviews in September which will require universities to create action plans for improvements, even if they get top marks in an inspection. Universities will be told whether they have met expectations on the "threshold standards" required to label degree awards as bachelor's or master's. Institutions will also be judged on the "quality" and "enhancement" of students' learning opportunities and their quality of public information.

See also: “Expectations should be high – for academics as well as students” in which Tara Brabazon of the THE looks at the issues surrounding academic success (or lack of it).

'At least once a term', says NUS charter on tutorials. THE, 31 March 2011.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has said that they expect all students to be entitled to a personal tutor and they should meet them at least once a term. The union also calls for students to have the right to change their tutor, for all staff to be given full training on the role, and for published "minimum requirements" in the area.

Battle the bad news bearers, UK academy urged. THE, 31 March 2011.

There have been more warnings about the UK’s position in the global market for education. It has been reported that foreign governments are telling prospective students not to go to UK universities because of funding cuts and new visa regulations. Paul Marshall, executive director of the 1994 Group of small research-intensive universities, said there was a risk that "interest will soon be lost in British education". He urged government and HE institutions to promote a positive message abroad about UK university education.

Features in this week’s THE.

Familiarity breeds competence is the headline for Malcolm Gillies’ study of university governance. Malcolm, vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University, asserts in his report that “alumni will make the best governors as they are the ones who will hold the greatest stake in the future”. The article covers the issued thoroughly but those interested can see the full report using the following link “University Governance: Questions for a new era”.

See also: "Leader: Guardians of their own future".

In Ruling classes”, Harry Hoare asks “Are world leaders born or made? And can policy- based courses prepare the next generation for the challenges ahead?  He discusses the role of philosophy “in honing the hearts and minds of those who walk the corridors of power”.

Serve the servants, or leadership by degrees” Finbarr Livesey, director of the Centre for Industry and Government, IfM, University of Cambridge looks at the courses preparing the leaders of the future.

The Arts. THE, 31 March 2011.

Rob Iliffe looks at Craig Baxter's playLet Newton Be!which takes the audience on a journey through Isaac Newton's life in which they discover that religion was as important as science to the great man. This week’s film review by Duncan Wu comments on the film “Stone” a midwest drama about a prison warden's moral crisis. Gary Day’s TV review  Bible's Buried Secrets(BBC 2) explains why he believes that Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s programme is a gem.

OCR chief: consequences of EBac could be ‘criminal’. TES, 01 April 2011.

Mark Daws, head of OCR, believes that to push young people down a GCSE route, required if schools are to be judged by the English Baccalaureate (EBac), will simply ‘turn off’ many pupils. He considers the skills that these pupils possess in the use of modern technology and says that at school they are almost discouraged from using these skills. Forcing pupils to follow a traditional route through education caused by a schools distortion of the curriculum to meet EBac requirements would be criminal. In this article Mark Daws says what he hopes for in the future development of education and what he does not like about current government thinking.

Fault lines emerge in plan for geography and history GCSE. TES, 01 April 2011.

The EBac regulations state that in order to receive an EBac students are required to obtain either history or geography at GCSE or IGCSE level. The Geographical Association and the Better History Group believe that schools will not offer pupils a choice and so the group has jointly suggested a combined geography and history GCSE. However, the Royal Geographical Society believes that combining the subjects will simply water down the content.

What is the purpose of education (in 500 words or fewer)? TES, 01 April 2011.

Trying to answer on of the most difficult questions, five teachers and educationalists put their thoughts to the TES.

Enrolments ‘to be hit’ by post-EMA uncertainty. TES, FE Focus, 01 April 2011.

Colleges are expecting a fall in student applications because of the uncertainty over the future of the government’s support grants. The new system, which has seen a cut in funding from the original EMA, is currently undergoing a consultation on how it is to be implemented. College prospectuses have already been printed and they are actively enrolling for a September start. Unfortunately, the outcome of the consultation will not be known until June, leaving colleges unsure how to advise prospective students.

Colleges will go broke ‘sooner than you think’. TES, FE Focus, 01 April 2011.

Geoff Russell, chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency, has told governors that he expects colleges rated as outstanding for their finances to halve because of the cuts. He further warned that he expected the number of colleges in financial difficulty to double ‘sooner than you think’. KPMG think that up to 50 colleges could disappear in merges or other partnerships.

See also: "Resilient FE must do ‘drastic things to cope’ in which the chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) makes the case that colleges need to change dramatically if they are to survive.