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Sector News, 29 November - 03 December 2010

English degrees for £27k - who's buying?  Education Guardian, 30 November 2010.

John Sutherland questions why Sandhurst, Cranwell and Dartmouth are allowed to offer ‘free’ degrees whilst the rest of the country’s universities have to charge.  John sees the current situation as one in which the government can see the need for the military but fail to see the need for humanities.  He argues that the nation needs historians and art specialists every bit as much as engineers and scientists.  The University of London professor also warns about rampant consumerism.  Believing that charging fees will raise the standard of teaching is, John believes, naive. It is more likely to force students into demanding better grades for their money.

College students get resilience training. Education Guardian, 30 November 2010.

Students who fail to get the grade they need for a university place face high levels of stress which could force them to ‘drop out’ rather than ‘bounce back’.  In answer to the issue, Winstanley College in Orrel, Lancashire has introduced industry-style resilience training to help students succeed by improving their ‘coping skills’.

Short-term relief, long-term grief.  THE, 02 December 2010.

Whilst chancellors are unhappy about the removal of the teaching grant for arts and humanities they feel that they have no option but to follow government guidelines and increase fees.  It is clear that the government’s attitude towards the arts is deeply offensive to many in higher education (except perhaps the STEM areas).

Fees pioneers map coalition wrong turns.  THE, 02 December 2010.

Nicholas Barr, professor of public economics at the London School of Economics, and David Eastwood, vice chancellor of the University of Birmingham, believe that the government has made a serious mistake in abolishing the teaching funding for the arts, humanities and social sciences.  The two academics' views are in tune with Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, who has been reported as saying that “I feel uncomfortable living in a country with no direct funding for arts and humanities”.   Both Nicholas Barr and David Eastwood believe that the government have also got it wrong with the loans system and say that a levy system proposed by Lord Browne would have been better.

Black spots loom as Aimhigher shuts.  THE, 02 December 2010.

Aimhigher works through 42 partnerships and about 2,700 schools in England and it was created to encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to aspire to university study.  David Lammy, the former higher education minister, said “The initiative carried out 'a staggering amount' of work to tackle the perception that university was only for some”.  He is concerned that higher education policy will be brought in without proper consideration of the widening participation issues.  It is thought that Aimhigher suffers because it lacks robust evidence of its achievements.  However, there are those involved in Aimhigher who say that there is a vast amount of evidence, but the government have made a poor job of collecting it.  The government wants universities to take over the role of supporting applicants from poor backgrounds.

UK as a whole will suffer if a big mistake is made in student visas, v-c warns.  THE, 02 December 2010.

Disagreements amongst cabinet members, notably Vince Cable and Theresa May, are behind a delay in the government starting its consultation on student visas.  The worry is that because of the delay the government will make hasty decisions.  Universities have already warned, repeatedly, that capping student visas will harm education in the UK.

Gove’s lesson plan to train teachers raises concerns.  THE, 02 December 2010.

More on the proposed shift of teacher training away from universities into schools.  Chris Husbands, director designate of the IoE says that he is enthusiastic about the changes but is concerned over the way that they may be implemented.  Chris believes that if you involve the best schools and the best universities you will get the best training. However, he does fear for the level of funding which he says will be inadequate to meet the need to create the numbers of teachers required each year.

Open access and wide-open remit.  THE, 02 December 2010.

Early next year an open access journal, “Sage Open”, spanning all disciplines in the arts and humanities fields, will be published by the US publishing house Sage.  It is hoped that it will operate in the same way as science based publications and accept papers in any humanities or social science disciplines.  This will be the first journal of its type.

Peer welcomes Browne lead but demands watchdog be let of leash.  THE, 02, December 2010.

Allowing costs to switch to the consumers but allowing the judge of whether provision is good or bad to lie with the producer is unacceptable.  This is the view of Lord Willis of Knaresborough who led a cross party enquiry into academic standards.  Lord Willis believes that the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) should be made completely independent of universities. 

Gove’ prejudices are no basis for the future of UK teacher training.  THE, 02 December 2010.

Opinion, James Williams, lecturer in education at the Schools Of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex.

James Williams believes that Michael Gove does not understand what is involved in initial teacher training.  He argues that creating a national network of teaching schools is evidence that he is unaware of the school-based models already in operation, in Sussex for as much as forty five years.  Gove says that “the best way people can improve as teachers is by observing other great teachers and being observed themselves”. This already happens and to characterise teacher education as a look and learn process is insulting.

 Features in this week’s THE:

Too complex for the jury?  A discussion on whether the traditional peer review in science is up to assessing large-scale multidisciplinary research.

Go! Fight! Win:  David Gewanter, professor of English, Georgetown University explains that the US cult of (University) American football is more than a matter of life and death.

Feel the rush: Journalistic models of rapid publication should be adopted by academics in the opinion of Tom Luckhurst, professor of journalism, University of Kent. 

The Arts.  THE, 02 December 20120.

Stem sell technology” is the heading for the first of this week’s arts features which covers David Hockney’s love of digital art which is on show in Paris this week.  This week’s film is “Catfish” which is a feature length documentary looking at the world of computer dating, Duncan Wu is the writer of the article headed “Kingdom of the blind date”.  “The entertainers” is the daytime TV slot, here Gary Day, principal lecturer in English, De Montfort University, say that he watches “The X Factor” to find that he is bemused rather than amused.  "The pick -Optical revelations", looks as Bridget Rily's painting exhibition at the National Gallery, London.

Bill’s powers reduce Ofsted to ‘zombie’.  TES, 03 December 2010.

In a letter to Michael Gove the Association of Schools and College Leaders (ASCL) has asked for a new parliamentary bill to safeguard education organisations from ministerial interference. The “Public Bodies Bill”, if accepted, would allow the education minister to axe or change Ofsted at will.  The ASCL’s opinion is echoed by Lord Knight, former schools minister, who has said that organisations like Ofsted must be independent of government.  However, headteachers have questioned Ofsted’s current level of independence, accusing the organisation of being government dominated.

White youths shun prison education while minorities are keen to learn.  TES, 03 December 2010.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Youth Justice Board have discovered that white young offenders are less likely to take up education than their minority counterparts.  The two organisations say that 69 per cent of white inmates take up the offer of education compared with 81 per cent who are from back and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Businesses could run colleges for profits.  TES, FE Focus, 03 December 2010.

The Skills Funding Agency have proposed allowing private companies to run struggling colleges.  Geoff Russell, the agency's chief executive, said that the private sector would bite his arm off for a chance to take over a failing college.  He also believes that colleges could become mutual co-operatives in the way that John Lewis offers its employees a share of the proceeds.  Peter Pendle, general secretary of the Association of Managers in Education, is not impressed. He says that this is a distraction from the work of running colleges.  Peter’s contention is that this is just another of Geoff Russell’s ideas which is doomed to failure.

See also editorial “John Lewis model could be a bad fit”.

Ofsted’s comparisons ‘create unfair verdicts’.  TES, FE Focus, 03 December 2010.

MPs have been warned by representatives from both FE and sixth form colleges that Ofsted comparisons judge sixth form colleges more harshly than schools.  By using different criteria Ofsted are making it impossible for parents to draw fair comparisons. 

Colleges to plug foreign students gap with overseas campuses.  TES, FE Focus, 03 December 2010.

Tighter immigration rules that could cut the number of foreign students in colleges are forcing colleges to consider settting up campuses abroad.  More than a third of colleges are considering setting up campuses overseas and over 90 per cent believe that collaboration with foreign colleges was likely.  

EMA keeps recipients in education for longer.  TES, FE Focus, 03 December 2010.

Data gathered by the 157 Group of larger colleges suggests that 90 per cent of students who receive the education maintenance allowance (EMA) complete their course.  EMA students also have a better attendance record and are even more likely to stay in education than wealthy students. Data from Lambeth College, London, showed that students receiving EMA were more likely to stay on their course and more likely to pass than those not receiving the grant.  The Manchester College says that prior to the introduction of EMAs almost one in five students dropped out because of financial reasons; recent data shows that that figures is now one in twenty.