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Sector News, 29 March - 09 April 2010

When Oxbridge is an option.  Education Guardian, 30 March 2010.

Three colleges, Peter Symonds Winchester, Farnborough and Hills Road Sixth Form Colleges, consistently get high numbers of students accepted by Oxford and Cambridge.  On average Farnborough have 30 students per year, Peter Symonds between 40 and 55 and Hills Road around 70 per year who obtain places at Oxford and Cambridge.  Eton sends between 60 and 80 to the two universities each year.  The principal of Peter Symonds College thinks that size is the crucial issue. Being a large college they have the resources to put into teaching that smaller colleges cannot afford.  However, being ‘clued up’ on the processes required to get students into Oxbridge and having a large number of extra curricular activities is also seen as an aid to success.

The irresistable rise of academic bureaucracy.  Education Guardian, 30 March 2010.

The opinion held by the Association of University Administrators, that they are necessary in complex institutions like universities, may well be supported by academics.  However, academics view a rise of 33 per cent in administrative posts alongside a rise of 10 per cent in academic posts with some scepticism.  Dr Graham Lock, a fellow in the faculty of philosophy at Oxford University calls the growth one of hyper-bureaucracy, a growth he sees as being almost impossible to stop.

Chancellor’s pre-hustings STEM largesse steals the Conservatives' thunder.  THE, 01 April 2010.

Whilst universities have welcomed the chancellor’s statement that the Government will fund 20,000 additional student places in science and technology it has re-ignited the debate over what are known as STEM subjects.  In summary, the chancellor has pledged £305 million of which £250 million is for extra places in science and technology, £20 million on pilot schemes to develop shared services between universities, £25 million on an enterprise fund and £10 to £12 million to be added to the enterprise fund from private sources.  The funding for all this could come from the projected savings of £300 million from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.  Universities continue to be concerned that the focus on science and technology will work to the detrriment of the arts and humanities.

Hefce’s bid for power to oust v-cs gets the cold shoulder.  THE, 01 April 2010.

Hefce have made draft proposal suggesting that universities should change the name of their vice-chancellors to 'accountable officer'.  They have also suggested that in certain circumstances Hefce should have the power to demand an accountable officer's removal.  Needless to say this has been met with derision by universities who see the proposal as an assault on their independence.

 Features in this week’s THE:

 It was fun while it lasted”.  A major article on the pay of vice-chancellors comparing the pay and benefits of vice-chancellors by university.

 Universities are not businesses”.  Iain Pears, an historic novelist and journalist looks at what he perceives as the threat of corporate managerialism which has removed vice-chancellors from meaningful contact with their colleagues.

 “Persistence pays”.  Lou Marinoff explains his love of cars and speed and the changing response of the powers ‘that be’ to the motorist.

Cuts likely to hit adults with few qualifications.  TES, FE Focus, 02 April 2010.

It is believed by some college principals that adult courses are likely to be major casualties of funding cuts.  Colleges will take a long hard look at courses which have low success rates. Courses such as ESOL and basic education which provide high levels of support to students are thought to be expensive to run, although nobody doubts that this provision is highly relevant to students.  The Skills Funding Agency deny that this is a problem yet, but say that it is a possibility that they must be aware of.

Enhanced future is a must for FE, say Lib Dems.  TES, FE focus, 02 April 2010.

The Liberal Democrats have set great store by increasing apprenticeships and creating a single funding body for adult further and higher education.  Other statements in the Lib. Dem. manifesto also include the funding of more foundation degrees.

Private businesses aim to take over failing colleges after election.  TES, FE Focus, 02 April 2010.

Companies and venture capital backers are waiting to see if the Government will allow the takeover of inadequate colleges after the next election.  John Hyde, managing director of Hospitality Industry Training (HIT),  believes that there are a variety of organisations capable of taking over colleges in the same way as academies take over schools.

Further Education faces an uncertain future.  Education Guardian, 06 April 2010.

Should the Conservative Party win the next election it is likely that David Willetts will be in charge of Further Education.   The Guardian reports on some of his opinions which in summary are:

  • concerns about mergers and a large colleges removing diversity from a local area,
  • scrapping the new funding system along with returning FE to the control of local authorities, scrapping the Skills Funding Agency and the Young People’s Learning Agency and replacing these with a single body responsible for FE,
  • consideration of a co-operative type of approach to office costs,
  • not happy to have too great a control over FE,
  • jettisoning a lot of targets,
  • making learning more responsive (e.g. on line),
  • reforming Train to Gain,
  • funding focussed on youth unemployment,
  • repairing damage done to adult education through an over bearing agenda of qualification-driven courses,
  • making the inspection regime simpler.

Delays hit disabled students.  Education Guardian, 06 April 2010.

At the end of the financial year, just over ten thousand of the twenty two thousand plus students who applied for the Disability Student Allowance, had not yet received payment.  The effect is to severely disadvantage disabled students who rely on the funding to support their learning.   Cited as an example in the Guardian is one student who found that the university had changed their software regime and left him with incompatible software, software which as a blind student is necessary for his work.  His application for funding to make his software compatible with the university's has so far not brought forward any funding.

Fast but not cheap: pilot casts doubt on accelerated degrees.  THE, 08 April 2010.

Lord Mandelson wants two year degrees to be a key feature of HE’s future.  However, the Higher Education Funding Council (Hefce) has expressed doubts that the degrees will be economically viable after the £250,000 development funds have been removed.

Features in the week’s THE:

Par for the course”.  Don Olcott Jr, chief exec, the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, discusses the length of masters degrees.

Dispositions to lawlessness”.   Stephen Mumford, professor of physics and head of humanities at the University of Nottingham ”describes two intellectual breakthroughs that breathed life into a moribund field and challenged the Newtonian world view”.

The matrix recoded”.  Most computer problems are caused by human error and managerial problems; computer courses must address this fact according to Darrell Ince, professor of computing at the Open University.

New numeracy and literacy plan makes adults ‘invisible’.  TES FE Focus, 09 April 2010.

A new single literacy and numeracy programme to replace key skills and Skills for Life is causing success rates to fall.  Training providers argue that the system, designed around school pupils, is unfit for adults. 

A spokesman for the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) said that it had been inundated with calls,some stating that success rates had dropped by as much as 92 per cent.

Students take pride of place in16-19 framework.  TES, FE Focus, 09 April 2010.

The National Commissioning Framework (NCF) has published a document through the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) that sets out the structure within which local authorities will commission education and training for 16 to 19 year olds.  The system is based on the following ten principles:

  • the system will operate in the interest of the learner,
  • it will take account of the needs of employers,
  • commissioning should be sustainable and provider neutral,
  • funding based on the national funding formula will follow the learner,
  • the system will seek to involve providers as strategic partners,
  • the process will encourage consistency in things like quality assurance and data submissions,
  • it must be compliant with Third Sector principles,
  • the system will deliver value for money,
  • accountability should be secured with minimum of bureaucracy between partners.

Useful links: 16-19 transfercreation of Young People's Learning Agency,

Two-pronged funding defies logic, argue MPs.  TES, FE Focus, 09 April 2010.

MPs have backed FE colleges in their criticism of the Government’s reorganisation of the further education funding system.  Both the MPs and the colleges say that adult education is being made to pay for the changes, a comment apparently supported by the FE secretary who admitted that prioritisation, including some adult education, is paying for the changes.