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

1 in 5 students unhappy with university course

C. Green

The Independent, Aug. 7th 2009, p. 2

The National Student Survey has found that almost one of five final-year undergraduates are unhappy with the quality of their courses. For the first time since the annual study started in 2004, overall satisfaction fell from 83 per cent to 82 per cent. This cohort of final year students is the first to have paid top-up fees from the start of their degree courses and for the majority this has resulted in an increase in tuition fees of about 3,000 per year. More than 223,000 students took part in the poll, the highest number ever.

Bogus colleges

Home Affairs Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC595)

Insufficient quality assurance procedures on the part of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills for private educational establishments on the register of education providers , which facilitated the issuing of student visas between 2005 and 2009, allowed bogus colleges to bring foreign nationals into the UK on fraudulent student visas. The UK Border Agency has recognised the deficiencies of this system and has introduced more rigorous regulation of educational establishments sponsoring student visas under the points based system. However, the Committee remains cautious about the UK Border Agency's ability to deal with this issue.

A degree will leave you with debts of 23,500.but there is a 1 in 5 chance that you'll also meet the love of your life

R. Garner

The Independent, Aug. 18th 2009, p.13

Undergraduates starting university in academic year 2009/10 are expected to accumulate debts of, on average, 23,500 by the time they finish their course. Research carried out by Push.co.uk, a publisher of student guides, showed that, on average, students who started university last autumn were 6,626 in debt by the end of their first year. More positive news suggests that one in five students will settle down with a long term partner after meeting them at university.

Diplomas fail university test

G. Paton and W. Mansell

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 25th 2009, p. 1

Interviews with admissions officers at 19 universities revealed wide support for the government's new Diplomas launched in 2008, on the grounds that they were likely to lead to an increase in the number of working class students. However, most universities will demand that applicants take at least one A-level in addition. Diplomas combine work-based training with classroom study.

First class? Challenges and opportunities for the UK's university sector

K. Withers (editor)

London: Institute for Public Policy Research, 2009

Study recommends that, in order to relieve the burden on the taxpayer, students from wealthy families should make a greater financial contribution to the cost of higher education. Students from the richest backgrounds should pay higher interest rates on student loans, and should receive smaller maximum amounts. The proportion of fees covered by loans could be reduced as families moved up the income ladder, with the wealthiest families being asked to pay tuition fees themselves.

Full universities leave A-level successes unable to trade up

N. Woolcock & J. Sugden

The Times, Aug. 20th 2009, p. 5

A-level students who achieve higher grades than they expected have little chance in getting a place at one of the leading universities under the new government system. This provides a 5 day 'adjustment period' in which school-leavers may 'trade up' their course, without losing their first choice place. More than 50,000 extra people have applied for places this year but there are only 13,000 more full-time undergraduate places available.

(See also The Guardian, Aug. 20th 2009, p.1)

Lecturers targeted in new wave of protest

D. Turner

Financial Times, Aug. 3rd 2009, p. 3

University lecturers have voiced fears that a recent spate of student protests over teaching quality could spread quickly when the new academic year begins in September. Student activists are warning of new campaigns, some harnessing social networking tools. Their complaints typically focus on the quality of feedback students receive from teachers and whether lecturers are turning up on time. Many activists say they are waiting for the results of the National Student Survey before choosing their next battleground. The publicly sponsored survey has for the past four years revealed in detail the relative strengths and weaknesses of each university as seen by its students.

More university students unhappy with teaching

J. Swaine

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 7th 2009, p. 6

The 2009 Annual Student Survey shows that numbers of students at elite universities who are dissatisfied with their courses rose for the first time since the inquiry began in 2005. Students complained that, despite tuition fees having trebled, they had less contact time with tutors, faced rising seminar class sizes and experienced worse turnaround times for marking work.

Rush for university intensifies with 14 students going for every place

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Aug. 25th 2009, p. 2

According to new figures, more than half of university places on offer through the clearing system have already been taken up, suggesting there are now 14 students chasing every vacancy still available. Universities are fast running out of spaces after a squeeze triggered by a 10% increase in applications and a cap on student numbers introduced by ministers to cut spending. The former Labour education secretary, Estelle Morris, has criticised the government's decision to only fund 10,000 extra slots in science and maths courses, stating that it is an irony the government has capped places after spending 10 years arguing that more people should go to university.

(See also The Independent, Aug. 25th 2009, p. 8)

School-leavers choosing work over student life

J. Sugden

The Times, Aug. 20th 2009, p. 5

Sainsbury, Tesco and PricewaterhouseCoopers report a surge in applications for their trainee schemes for school-leavers with A-levels. Tesco has seen a 140 per cent increase in applications to its A-level trainee management programme compared with last year, while PWC as seen a 60 per cent increase.

Students and universities

Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC170)

This inquiry investigated the student experience of higher education and whether they are getting value for money. It found that:

  • Existing bursary arrangements introduced to help students pay variable tuition fees are unfair and are inconsistent between universities. The Committee calls for a national system calculated on need to replace existing arrangements.
  • The system in England for safeguarding consistent national standards in higher education is out of date, inadequate and in need of replacement.
  • To ensure consistency across the sector, codes of practice should be introduced covering, for example, admissions.
  • A credit transfer system should be introduced to ensure the portability of credits between tertiary education institutions in England.
  • The treatment of part-time and mature students needs to be improved.

Teachers put top state pupils off Oxbridge

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 11th 2009, p. 1

Research by the Sutton Trust suggests that teachers at state schools discourage pupils from applying to elite universities, on the grounds that 'they are not for the likes of us'. The Trust is calling for an overhaul of careers guidance in state schools. It argues that about half the guidance currently received is poor.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Aug. 12th 2009, p. 4)

Top universities sceptical about accepting applicants who take diplomas, report finds

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Aug. 25th 2009, p. 4

Research has revealed that admissions officers in some elite institutions are sceptical about the academic credibility of the government's new diplomas. Hundreds of pupils will be awarded the first diplomas this week along with this year's GCSE results but the government commissioned study suggests that some admissions officers regard them as more appropriate for students applying to ex-polytechnics than the top institutions. The study by academics at the University of Exeter and commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, found that admissions officers in the most competitive universities are more likely to question the 'academic rigour of diploma content' than those in other institutions.

Universities back part-time study as applications soar

R. Garner

The Independent, Aug. 17th 2009, p. 7

Thousands of A-level candidates will be offered the alternative of part-time degree courses as a result of this year's squeeze on university places. UCAS, the admissions service, will for the first time offer details of all part-time degree courses online as up to 60,000 applicants for full-time courses face rejection this summer. The government has announced an extra 10,000 places this autumn but will not fund any extra teaching costs. Some universities, notably Oxford and Cambridge, have spurned the idea of extra places.

University 'head start' for poor

J. Swaine

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 10th 2009, p. 6

Lord Mandelson has asked officials to investigate whether pro-poor admission schemes in place at Leeds University and two London medical schools could be installed nationwide. Under these schemes, less demanding offers are made to candidates from disadvantaged families. This means that their A-level grades do not need to be as good as those of applicants from wealthier backgrounds. Lord Mandelson believes the move may be necessary to improve Labour's limited progress on increasing social mobility.

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