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

Cash drive 'leads universities to give foreigners degrees'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 18th 2008, p. 10

An anonymous whistleblower has claimed that foreign students with little grasp of English are being awarded degrees at leading universities. He said that academics are encouraged to give special treatment to overseas students because they pay higher fees.

(See also The Independent, June 25th 2008, p. 9)

Degree system is rotten, says watchdog

J. Bingham

Daily Telegraph, June 25th 2008, p. 10

The Chief Executive of the Quality Assurance Agency has claimed that the system of awarding first, second and third class bachelor's degrees has become meaningless. While all universities use the same basic system of classification, standards vary widely between institutions. He also expressed concern that external examiners are nor being used effectively, and that the current influx of overseas students may lower standards. Some overseas students expect their fees to automatically gain them a degree.

Gender gaps in higher education participation: an analysis of the relationship between prior attainment and young participation by gender, socio-economic class and ethnicity

S. Broecke and J. Hamed

Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, 2008 (DIUS research report; 08-14)

This analysis shows that:

  • 7.2% more young women than young men participated in higher education in 2005/06. This gap is set to continue to widen
  • Girls are also more likely than boys to stay on in full-time education at age 16 (82% of girls and 72% of boys), to be entered for A levels and to achieve an A grade
  • Young people from ethnic minority backgrounds are overwhelmingly more like to enter higher education than White people with the same prior attainment.
  • The gap is widest among male teenagers from poor backgrounds. Just 6% of white boys eligible for free school meals went to university, compared to 26% of working-class young men from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Lecturers 'pressed to boost degree results'

R. Garner

The Independent, June 17th 2008, p. 1&2

Degree standards in many British universities are in danger of collapsing because lecturers are under pressure to 'mark positively' and turn a blind eye to plagiarism. Professor Geoffrey Alderman, former chairman of the academic council at the University of London, warns that 'league-table culture' has led to an explosion in the number of firsts awarded. Latest figures show they have gone up by more than 100 per cent over the past decade.

Quarter of students fail to complete university degrees

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 5th 2008, p. 6

Figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that 14.1% of students who started degree courses in 2005/06 will drop out entirely. When students who drop out of one course to start another are taken into account, the proportion rises to 22.6%. The failure rate has not improved over the past 12 months and drop out rates are worst at former polytechnics.

State pupils may get lower offers

P. Curtis

The Guardian, June 30th 2008, p. 7

The National Council for Educational Excellence is set to make a recommendation to the government would allow universities be allowed to adopt controversial admissions procedures which will allow universities to make lower offers to pupils from struggling state schools who show greater potential than applicants from private schools.

State school pupils still being 'ignored' by top institutions

S. Cassidy

The Independent, June 5th 2008, p. 10

Britain's leading universities are making slow progress in admitting more students from state schools and poor backgrounds despite a 3bn government drive to open them up to the most disadvantaged. Only six of the 20 institutions which make up the Russell Group of research-intensive universities met their benchmarks for the proportion of state school pupils they admit.

University's exam to counter A-level grade inflation

O. Boycott

The Guardian, June 4th 2008, p. 4

Imperial College London is set to develop its own entrance exam because it believes 'grade inflation' has rendered A-level results useless as a means of selecting the best undergraduates. Sir Richard Sykes, the rector of Imperial College London has warned that the state education system is failing Britain's most gifted children.

(See also The Independent, June 4th 2008, p. 11; The Times, June 4th 2008, p. 21)

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