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

Cut fees to recruit more students, universities told

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 9th 2011, p. 10

Government ministers were desperate to drive down university tuition fees to reduce the student loans bill amid fears that billions of pounds handed out to undergraduates would never be repaid. They therefore announced that 20,000 extra places would be made available at the cheapest universities. Institutions could bid for a share of the places if they charged less than 7,500 in tuition fees.

Exodus warning to costly universities


Daily Telegraph, Sept. 5th 2011, p. 12

Higher education in most of Britain is more expensive that in continental Europe and universities may face losing students to European institutions when tuition fees rise to up to 9,000 a year in 2012. Leading Dutch universities currently offer degree courses at less than 2,000 per year, while many of those in Scandinavia offer undergraduate courses in English free of charge.

Favour poorer pupils, urges exam board

G. Hurst

The Times, Sept. 27th 2011, p. 9

Britain's biggest exam board ,AQA, has proposed that A-level pupils should be given extra points if they attend an under-performing comprehensive school or come from a poor family. Universities would select students using a formula that ranked candidates according to their type of school and home circumstances, not just exam results.

Franco-British academic partnerships: the next chapter

M. Fraser and P. Lane

Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011

The steady increase in joint programmes and qualifications offered by UK and French universities is a cause for celebration. But language constraints, financial pressures and political uncertainty present real obstacles to continued expansion. How are these to be overcome? And how can higher education institutions on either side of the Channel help each other to realise the enormous potential of Franco-British partnerships? This book is a valuable opportunity not only to take stock of intensifying bilateral cooperation in the higher education sector, but also to share experience and best practice, and, hopefully, to identify some new initiatives and areas for collaboration.

Job figures cast doubt on push for teenagers to study science

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Sept. 8th 2011, p. 7

Only about half of all science graduates find work that requires their scientific knowledge, a study has shown, casting doubt on the government's drive to encourage teenagers to study the subject at university. A study showed 46% of engineering students and 55% of chemistry or physics students were in jobs related to their degree six months after graduation. The researchers from Birmingham University analysed data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency on students who graduated from UK universities in 2008 and 2009. About a quarter of engineering students were in roles that did not require a degree six months after graduation, and 12% were in sales or admin work, the researchers found. Engineering and science degrees are among the most expensive for universities to run.

Quarter of students unhappy with their university courses

J. Sugden

The Times, Aug. 17th 2011, p. 18

The National Student Survey of final year undergraduates revealed that in 2011universities were failing to satisfy the academic needs of up to one in four students. Leading figures in higher education warned that universities could not afford to be complacent, especially because of the steep increase in fees in 2012, when students would demand more in return for having to pay up to 9,000 a year.

Take a gap year- and get extra Uncas points

J. Sugden

The Times, Aug. 5th 2011, p. 3 >

'Overseas trips to count towards university place'. In 2011, teenagers taking a gap year were offered valuable A-level points for completing four-week trips to Africa, South America and South-East Asia. Activities counted towards the Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (Cope) which was equivalent to obtaining a grade A at AS level. Students were required to produce a report documenting their travels and displaying six skills including working with others, research and improving personal learning.

The path of least resistance: a voice-relational analysis of disabled students' experiences of discrimination in English universities

L. Hopkins

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 15, 2011, p. 711-727

Recent legislation means that it is now illegal to treat a student, for reasons relating to a disability, less favourably than a non-disabled student unless this is justified to maintain academic standards. However, recent research has identified numerous barriers faced by students with disabilities when they attempt to access the higher education curriculum. This study uses a methodology combining life-story approaches with a voice-relational analysis and aims to explore in more detail these barriers by listening to first person accounts from university students with a disability. The narratives suggest that disabled students have to work considerably harder than non-disabled students to overcome a wide range of physical, attitudinal, social, cultural and political barriers. Students appear to take the path of least resistance by choosing routes where the barriers are lowest and it is argued that in this way they are being discriminated against. The research shows that voice-relational methodology is excellent at producing a thorough account of the phenomenological world of these students without neglecting a materialist and cultural analysis of their environment. These insider perspectives are then used to suggest possible improvements to policy and practice in higher education.

The role of mediation within university protocols concerning student complaints and appeals

M. Van Hoorebeek, C. Gale and S. Walker

Multicultural Education and Technology, vol. 5, 2011, p. 209-220

As the predicted escalation in litigation becomes a reality for universities in the UK, increasing importance is placed on the consideration given to the integrity of institutional protocols regulating decision making at all stages of student progression. The purpose of this paper is to outline the structures that are in place to provide an analysis of the issues that arise when these protocols are activated. This paper first provides a brief yet accessible overview of the literature concerning the institutions involved in student appeals. Secondly, it explains the principles that should be applied when using and analysing university protocols, and thirdly, analyses the role that mediation can play within the sector. Finally, it discusses the disability dimension within a complaints context. It can be seen that disputes between student and institution are on the rise for a number of reasons, be it finance, complexity of legislation or otherwise. The robust nature of what the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) does seems evident from the lack of successful challenge by way of judicial review, even though the process has been held to be reviewable in a limited way at least. Perhaps this will give some reassurance to the aggrieved student that their version of events will be heard and judged fairly, but the overwhelming message to institutions must be to address potential issues early by means of well drafted protocols, management of student expectation and possibly the establishment of some sort of campus ombudsman which may help deter, deflect or even solve disputes. The role of the OIA seems here to stay and the amount of business it does is likely to increase.

Universities consider cutting fees

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Sept. 9th 2011, p. 11

At least 12 universities are considering substantially dropping their tuition fees for autumn 2012 from the maximum of 9,000. At least two have expressed an interest in lowering fees substantially from the maximum of 9,000 a year, while a further 10 want to reduce fees marginally so that they are under 7,500, a government watchdog has said. More than a third of English universities - 47 out of 123 - intended to charge 9,000 as their standard fee, the government's higher education access watchdog reported in July 2011. The estimated average fee was 8,393, the Office for Fair Access (Offa) said. However, universities are now reconsidering their sums after the government gave them incentives to charge less than 7,500, the watchdog said.

Universities slam door on 90,000 applicants

J. Sugden and G. Hurst

The Times, Aug. 19th 2011, p. 1 & 9

Universities closed their doors within hours of A-level results being published in 2011 as two in three people seeking a place through clearing were predicted to fail. There was a rise in A-level entries for chemistry, physics and maths, allaying fears of a collapse in demand for sciences.

Universities still failing poor students

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Sept. 29th 2011, p. 1

A quarter of English universities failed to meet their targets to admit substantially more disadvantaged students in 2010, a government watchdog has revealed. Cambridge, Bristol, Exeter, Durham and University College London were among 23 institutions that admitted making insufficient progress in widening their mix of applicants in 2009-10 - leading to accusations that the intake of the most selective universities was 'increasingly privileged'. David Willetts, the universities minister, said the report was proof that social mobility had stalled. The disclosure, in the annual monitoring report of the Office for Fair Access (Offa), renewed fears that the least privileged teenagers were being excluded from some of the country's top universities. The 23 institutions included universities and other higher education bodies with degree-awarding powers. A further 21 colleges that offered degrees also failed to reach their targets.

(See also The Independent, Sept. 29th 2011, p. 13; The Times, Sept. 29th 2011, p. 14)

Universities urged to relax rules for students from poor families

G. Hurst

The Times, Sept. 8th 2011, p. 20

The Government's social mobility commission is urging universities to be bolder by admitting more poor children from weak state schools even if they achieve lower A-level grades than other candidates as research suggests that accepting students with lower grades but greater potential could boost rather than weaken universities.

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