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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2011): Education - UK - higher

Accountants offer to pay students 20,000 to help balance books

R. Garner

The Independent, Jan. 14th 2011, p. 16

Hundreds of students will be paid 20,000 a year to study for a degree under a groundbreaking deal between a top university and one of the country's largest recruiters. The deal agreed between KPMG and Durham University, and expected to be expanded, will see 18 years-old sign a six year contracts with the company and spend the first four years split between the university and the company's London headquarters, culminating with the award of a BSC in Accounting. The graduates will then be guaranteed two years work with KPMG, ending with a salary of 45,000.

Customer first programme: delivery of student finance

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2010 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/11; HC424)

Under the Customer First Programme, delivery of grants and loans to Higher Education students in England is being transferred from local authorities to the Student Loans Company (the Company), a non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (the Department). In 2009, the first year of a three-year phased implementation, the Company began assessing applications from new students; by 2011 it will be responsible for applications from all students in England. This report finds that performance in processing applications and communicating with students in this first year was completely unacceptable. There were failures in the Company's management and the Department's oversight, and when these problems became apparent they were not tackled with urgency. Fewer than half of all applications were fully processed by the start of term, and the Company took on average a third longer to process applications than local authorities did the previous year. The Company answered fewer than half the calls it received in 2009; in September 87% of calls went unanswered. Disabled students suffered disproportionately in 2009, as the Company devoted too few staff to processing their applications. The Company also demonstrated a number of IT failings in 2009: most importantly, it did not sufficiently test its crucial document scanning - the failure of which was the catalyst for the failure of the entire system. The Department's risk management and performance monitoring were all found severely wanting in 2009. The Department underestimated the risks in centralising the service, the Programme Board lacked skills and experience, and there was poor communication between the Programme Board, the Company's Board, and the Department. In 2010 the Company has improved its performance, although the rate of improvement has been disappointing and uncertainties remain over the Company's ability to deliver and maintain a service that provides value for money. The Department needs to closely monitor the performance of the Company, and intervene quickly and decisively wherever the quality of service being provided to users falls short of the standards expected.

Cuts threaten one-to-one tutorials at Cambridge

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 26th 2011, p. 2

Cambridge University's working group on organisational efficiency warns that the cost of the institution's system of one-to-one tutorials for students continues to rise and may not be sustainable in the face of government cuts to higher education funding. Figures suggest that the university loses money on each UK student admitted because of an imbalance between tuition costs and the amount the institution receives in fees and government grants. In 2010/11, it has been forced to subsidise each undergraduate to the tune of 9,000, an overall shortfall of 108m.

One in three will miss out in rush for university

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 5th 2011, p. 1 + 4

University applicants are desperate to secure places in 2011 to beat the near tripling of tuition fees scheduled for 2012 that could see some students paying 9,000 a year. By Christmas 2010, a record 344,000 candidates had completed university application forms for places in 2011, more than ever before at such an early stage in the admissions process. If the current trend continues, about 705,500 applicants will be competing for the 479,000 undergraduate places available.

(See also Independent, Jan. 5th 2011, p. 14; Guardian, Jan. 5th 2011, p.5)

Student rioter gets 32 months for hurling fire extinguisher

D. Kennedy

The Times, Jan. 12th 2011, p.6

Edward Woollard, the student who hurled a fire extinguisher from the top of Conservative headquarters in Central London, was sentenced to two years and eight months in jail after the judge said that he had abused his right to peaceful protest and could have killed someone.

Top universities insist on A*s for more courses

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Jan. 25th 2011, p. 13

Hundreds more teenagers will have to achieve the elite A* grade at A level in 2011 to stand a chance of winning a place at a top university, The Guardian has learned. For the first time, students applying for courses at Bristol, Exeter and Sussex universities will be required to achieve an A*, with University College London, Imperial College London and Warwick University increasing the number of courses requiring the top grade. Earlier this month, Oxford announced it would demand grade A* for 15 of its courses.

Tuition fee scheme 'too complex'

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Jan. 31st 2011, p. 12

A scheme to waive university fees for poor students is unlikely to help the most deprived, the Million + think tank has warned, adding that the 150m scheme, whereby students whose parents have a joint annual income of 16,040 or less would have their first year at university paid for by the state, will add an additional layer of complexity to an already complicated system of students' bursaries and grants.

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