Click here to skip to content

Welfare Reform on the Web (March 2008): Education - UK - higher

Moving towards inclusion? The first-degree results of students with and without disabilities in higher education in the UK: 1998-2005

P. D. Pumfrey

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol.23, 2008, p.31-46

Two of the government's key objectives for 2010 are to increase higher education (HE) participation rates of students with and without disabilities and to maintain the HE academic standards of students with and without disabilities. This article examines whether the currently selective UK higher education system is becoming more inclusive, and whether there has been evidence, in relation to talented students with disabilities, for the implementation of these stated HE policy objectives. The findings reported are based on data drawn from six cohorts of students at UK higher education institutions (HEI) who satisfactorily completed their first degrees between the years 1998/9 and 2004/5. A total of 1,502,658 students were involved and a number of variables (such as gender, disability category, degree classification etc.) were studied. The author concludes that, in absolute terms, the number of male and female students with and without disabilities successfully completing their first degrees has increased markedly over time. First-class honours degree standards appear to have been maintained, and possibly improved. Limitations in the nature of key variables in the research are acknowledged and caution is advised in interpreting the analyses, but the study identifies a number of challenging but promising future lines of enquiry.

Second time unlucky

S. Court

Public Finance, Feb. 13th-21st 2008, p. 24-26

Despite receiving real terms funding increases, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills aims to make savings through:

  • Cuts in funding for research in particle physics and astronomy
  • Cuts in funding for students wanting or needing a second undergraduate degree
  • Development of the employer-led Train to Gain programme, which is cheaper than funding courses at further education colleges
  • More efficient procurement by colleges and universities.

Staying the course: the retention of students on higher education courses

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08; HC322)

Around 28,000 full time and 87,000 part time students who started first degrees in 2004/05 were no longer in higher education a year later. Among full-time students, 91.6% entered a second year of study, and 78.1% were expected to complete. There has been little improvement in retention since 2001/02, in spite of universities having received 800m to provide support for students most likely to withdraw early. There is considerable variation in retention rates among universities. In 2004/05 five universities achieved a retention rate in excess of 97% for full time first degree students, whereas 12 had continuation rates below 87%. The committee calls on universities to improve retention rates through collection of good quality management information including reasons for leaving, provision of additional teaching support for students unable to cope academically, more contact with tutors and better pastoral care, especially for students entering university from non-traditional backgrounds.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Mar. 6th 2008, p. 2)

The university of google: education in the [post] information age

T. Brabazon

Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007

This book, based on real teaching experience, examines the impact of the internet on teaching and learning in higher education. At a time when libraries and librarians are starved of funding, teachers cram their curricula with 'skill development' and 'generic competencies' and parents have become obsessed with league tables, not learning, the author argues that over-reliance on the internet for access to information has been profoundly damaging to our learning institutions and to the ambitions of our students and educators. While she celebrates the possibilities of digital platforms in education, she deplores the consequences of investing in technology and not teachers, suggesting students and learners are losing the capacity to sift, discard and judge. This book projects a defiant and passionate vision of education, opening up a new debate on how to make our educational system both productive and provocative in the [post] information age.

Usefulness of introductory higher education orientation units in the context of increasing student diversity

R. Bennett, W. Mousley and R. Ali-Choudhury

International Journal of Educational Management vol. 22, 2008, p.7-31

This article reports on research carried out with students within a business studies department in a large post-1992 university located in Greater London. The researchers examined the influence of certain factors (e.g. educational background, level of commitment) that played a role in determining students' assessment of the usefulness of undertaking a compulsory, one semester higher education orientation unit (HEOU). Data was collected via a questionnaire administered to students who had completed or were about to complete the unit. The findings showed that students who claimed they had obtained the greatest advantages from completing the HEOU tended to be 'academic' individuals, who were highly committed to being a student, which was not necessarily the type of students the unit had been designed to assist.

Search Welfare Reform on the Web