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Welfare Reform on the Web (July 2009): Education - UK - higher

12m plan to help university drop-outs study with OU

P. Curtis

The Guardian, June 25th 2009, p. 9

The government is to set up a fund to give students at risk of dropping out a chance to complete their degree online through the Open University. The 12m plan is designed to help the 35,000 students who drop out every year and will mean an expansion of the role of the OU. The Higher Education Statistics Agency has reported that in 2007, 7.4% of younger undergraduates left during their first year at university, against 7.1% the year before. The Higher Education Funding Council for England said that it hoped up to 15% of those who currently drop out could be encouraged to complete their degrees if they could do so at home. The government has also announced a 20m fund to support online learning.

Class of 2009

S. Court

Public Finance, May 29th-June 4th 2009, p. 18-21

Universities in England face having 180m lopped off their state funding by 2011, in spite of rising demand for places. Universities are calling for tuition fees paid by students to be raised from the current level of just over 3,000 per year to 5,000 or 7,000 to compensate for this loss of income and to enable them to cover rising staff pay costs. Fees are due to be reviewed in Summer 2009.

Class of 2009: 40,000 graduates will join jobless roll

P. Curtis and A. Lipsett

The Guardian, June 11th 2009, p.1

Figures compiled by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (Hescu) suggest that one in 10 of this years 400,000 graduates will be out of work for at least 6 months following their graduation. This could help tip the number of people under-25 who are unemployed over the 1 million mark. This cohort of graduates will be the first to have paid the 3,000 per year top up fee and will have the highest levels of student debt in history. They face the highest levels of unemployment in a generation.

Clearing places at university cut by two thirds this summer

J. Sugden and L.Dixon

The Times, June 16th 2009, p.5

The Times has contacted 60 universities which normally take the highest numbers of students through the clearing system. Feedback suggests that these universities - including Northumbria University and Goldsmiths College - predict a significant reduction in the number of places they will have available. The financial squeeze upon universities has meant that they will have to reduce student numbers and be less lenient in offering places to students who do not quite make their predicted grades.

More than one in seven students drops out of university

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 5th 2009, p. 10

Official figures show that almost a quarter of students failed to finish their degrees following the imposition of 3,000 annual tuition fees in September 2006. Dropout rates were highest at former polytechnics. The number of students from working class backgrounds at British universities has also dropped from 29.8% in 2006/07 to 29.5% in 2007/08 despite pressure to recruit more from non-traditional backgrounds.

Poor teaching 'is pushing students to private tutors'

S. Johnson

Daily Telegraph, June 8th 2009, p. 10

University students are increasingly turning to private tutors because they are dissatisfied with the standard of teaching on their degree courses. Students complain that they do not receive enough feedback on their work and have little opportunity to discuss assignments with lecturers. Problems have been exacerbated by rising class sizes and a growing tendency for universities to use postgraduate students to fill in for academic staff.

Poorer children outnumbered 2-1 at university

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, May 29th 2009, p.12

Research by the Conservatives indicates that in the poorest areas only a third of school leavers go on to higher education. In the richest areas, the participation rate is 60%. The figures may indicate that Labour's attempts to widen access to higher education are failing.

Sham colleges and bogus students are 'national scandal'

R. Ford

The Times, June 3rd 2009, p. 19

MPs have been told that tens of thousands of bogus students are in Britain because of the 'national scandal' of sham colleges that offer courses to foreigners. Hundreds of bogus colleges have enrolled young people who in reality are economic migrants using the student visa route to enter the country. The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has been told that the existence of so many bogus colleges is damaging the international reputation of the education sector. An estimated 2,400 colleges are considered by the Government to be under suspicion.

Top universities 'must go private to preserve their reputations'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 2nd 2009, p. 1

The Rector of Imperial College, London has argued that elite universities should sever their ties with government to protect their world class reputations. Going private would allow them to recruit more foreign students and set higher tuition fees. Leading universities have suffered below inflation government funding allocations in 2009 as money is awarded to former polytechnics.

Universities 'fail to attract poorest pupils'

J. Sugden

The Times, June 5th 2009, p. 20

Top universities have failed to attract entrants from state schools and the poorest areas of the country despite billions being spent on attempting to attract students from these groups. The percentage of state-school pupils and those from poor areas attending the universities of Cambridge, Durham and Bristol fell this year according to statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The figures also suggest that drop-out rates amongst these groups have risen. The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, has angered lecturers by suggesting that the quality of teaching may be to blame for this increase in drop-out rates.

(See also, The Guardian, June 5th 2009, p. 19; The Independent, June 5th 2009, p. 17)

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