The Guardian, July 21st 2009, p. 7
An emergency plan to expand the number of university places by 10,000 for this autumn to ease a crisis in the university admissions system has been criticised by students after ministers said it would be restricted to those applying for science-related courses. Lord Mandelson has announced that that the extra places will be available on science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) courses in England. The students will receive grants and loans and pay tuition fees. Universities can choose whether to take the extra students but will receive no extra money from the government to cover teaching costs.
(See also The Independent, July 21st 2009, p. 4)
The Guardian, July 20th 2009, p. 1 & 2
According to a new report called Unleashing Aspirations, commissioned by Gordon Brown, universities must do more to end elitism in Britain by admitting thousands more students from poorer backgrounds. It also proposes no-fee degrees for students who stay at home, a controversial initiative likely to be accepted by Lord Mandelson, who took on responsibility for higher education when his department was expanded last month.
Daily Telegraph, July 3rd 2009, p. 12
The Conservatives are proposing that all students applying to train as primary school teachers would have to have gained B grades in GCSE maths and English, instead of C grades as at present. All trainees will also be required to have at least a 2:2 degree to enrol in postgraduate training courses. At present students are accepted on PGCE courses if they have third class degrees.
The Guardian, July 6th 2009, p.4
A poll of 226 leading employers by the Association for Graduate Recruitment, whose members include Asda, BT, Lloyds and Nestle, shows a fall in vacancies of 24.9 per cent, with 48 applicants for every graduate-level job. Such figures were last seen in 1991.
Daily Telegraph, July 3rd 2009, p. 1 + 2
Ministers announced that due to difficult economic circumstances government grants to students to subsidise living costs will be frozen at £2906 in 2010-11, the same as the grant for the 2009-10 academic year. At the same time tuition fees will rise by 2% from £3225 to £3290. Government loans available to cover tuition fees will rise by the same amount, leading to an increase in student debt. The announcement has sparked widespread anger.
Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills
London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC170)
Universities are accused of failing to address claims of dumbing down after the proportion of first class degrees awarded rose from 7.7% in 1996/97 to 13.3% in 2007/08. The report criticises vice-chancellors of 'defensive complacency' for failing to respond to concerns about falling standards. It calls for the Quality Assurance Agency to be re-established as an independent quality and standards agency with responsibility for monitoring standards.
Daily Telegraph, July 9th 2009, p.8
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is said to be considering introducing 'no fee degrees' for undergraduates to allow them to avoid mounting debts. The offer could be made to students who opt to live at home while studying , and would save the government money as participants would be unable to claim for maintenance grants or low-interest loans.
(See also Times, July 9th, 2009, p.3)
The Times, July 29th 2009, p. 4
To withstand competition from Asian and Middle Eastern Universities, British and American universities could merge, according to a study by Professor Rick Trainor of Universities UK and Professor John Sexton of New York University.
The Guardian, July 9th 2009, p.5
The Government is seeking to fund an additional 10,000 University places this year because of fears up to 40,000 well-qualified applicants may end up on the dole due to record numbers of applications for too few places. If the Treasury refuses to fund them, Universities will be asked to do so. (See also The Times, July 10th 2009, p.14 and The Times, July 17th 2009, p.5)
The Times, July 28th 2009, p. 3
In a speech to Vice-Chancellors at Birkbeck College, Lord Mandelson set out his vision for higher education for the first time since taking over responsibility for universities from DIUS. He suggested the future lies in mature and part-time students taking shorter or alternative degrees. He also intends to 'turn up the spotlight on university admissions', arguing that universities should do more to ensure people from poor backgrounds can get in. His review of top-up fees will not however be complete before the general election.
(See also The Guardian, July 28th 2009, p. 8, Financial Times, July 28th 2009, p. 2 and Letter from Lord Mandelson to The Times, July 29th 2009, p. 23 suggesting his comments had been sensationalised in their article.)