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

Capital gains for UK universities as Oxford slips in world rankings

J. Sugden

The Times, Oct. 8th 2009, p.21

Four British universities are in the world top ten rankings this year, with London universities climbing higher than they have in the past. The world rankings are published by the Times Higher Education Supplement and are based on surveys of academics and the views of graduates.

(See also The Guardian, Oct 8th 2009, p.15)

Location, location, location- the widening education gap in Britain and how where you live determines your chances

University and College Union

London: University and College Union, 2009

This study analysed official statistics, breaking down educational achievement by Parliamentary constituency in England, Scotland and Wales. Nationally, almost three in ten working age adults had a degree in 2008, but in some of the poorest areas this fell to one in ten. The research also analysed the 20 areas with the worst degree record in 2005 and reassessed them in 2008. Results showed that the number of adults with the qualification had fallen from 12.6% to 12.1%. Over the same period, the 20 most educated communities saw a rise in the proportion of people with a degree from 46.8 to 57.2 per cent. The research suggests that middle-class teenagers have benefited most from the expansion of higher education over the past 12 years.

Private schools dominate universities

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 7th 2009, p. 10

Research shows that pupils from private schools are continuing to get more than their fair share of places at leading universities, despite government pressure to widen access to elite institutions. The number of pupils from fee-paying schools admitted to the 10 leading universities increased over the four years from 2003/04 to 2006/07.

(See also Times, Oct. 7th 2009, p.3; Guardian, Oct 7th 2009, p.4)

Report of the Sub-committee for Teaching, Quality, and the Student Experience: HEFCE's statutory responsibility for quality assurance

Higher Education Funding Council for England, 2009

Report denies that courses are becoming easier, but admits that the present system of awarding first, second and third class degrees is failing to differentiate between students following a significant rise in the university population. It calls for the present system of degree classification to be scrapped and replaced with a detailed report card.

Study proposes league table plan for colleges

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Oct. 23rd 009, p. 7

A review by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has proposed that college and university courses should be subject to new league tables based on how many students drop out, their future earnings and how much they enjoyed their classes. The review says that such a move would introduce a market that would force poorly rated courses to improve or close and could allow the government to strip away up to 30 quangos currently involved in planning education provision in England. The head of this inquiry into post-16 education also said that colleges should introduce university-style fees for training courses capped at a maximum amount with employers and students both paying towards the costs.

Top universities 'should get 90% of research funds'

A. Hough and M. Moore

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 23rd 2009, p. 6

Prof. Michael Arthur, head of the Russell Group of elite universities, has argued that 90% of research funding should be targeted on Britain's top 30 universities. Without a clear policy in favour of funding concentration, he argues that Britain's international standing, profile and performance will decline.u

Universities dumbing down language degrees, study finds

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Oct. 21st 2009, p. 6

Universities have been accused of 'dumbing down' language degrees in an attempt to attract students, according to a report that reveals the state of the discipline in English higher education. Student numbers have dropped by 5% in the last five years, while a third of departments have closed in the last seven, the report found. The study by Michael Worton, the vice-provost of University College London, was ordered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) after a number of departments were forced to close through lack on interest from students and funding for research. It concluded that student numbers had dropped since the government ended compulsory language lessons in schools after the age of 14 and there were likely to be further falls over the next few years. But the 'greatest source of current anxiety' was the fall in funding for research.

Universities finally open their doors to the poor

R. Garner

The Independent, Oct. 15th 2009, p. 8

New figures from HEFCE show the number of people from disadvantaged backgrounds getting a place at university has risen from 13.5 per cent in 1996 to 18.5 per cent in 2008.

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