Roundup of the Latest UK Education News for March

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From time to time we like to pull together an at-a-glance roundup of a few leading stories in the world of education today. What’s happening? Let’s take a look at the papers and the latest education news…

For Richer, for Poorer

These days, more students than ever are carrying their education on to a third level, whether it’s college, university or an online course. If you’re from a middle-class background, though, you’re apparently up to seven times more likely to go to a top-rated university than your less well-off peers.

Many of the top name establishments, including Oxford and Cambridge, have recently come under close scrutiny from the Office for Fair Access – otherwise known as The Admissions Watchdog. Now plans are afoot to encourage these aforementioned establishments, and others, to encourage future intake from poorer backgrounds. Read more here in the Telegraph.

Mind the Gap

Also in the Telegraph recently, Matthew Hancock – minister for business, enterprise and energy – is reported to be calling for more quality apprenticeships, with particular emphasis on STEM subjects where the gap needs to be addressed (science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) The Conservative party have committed to a pledge of more than 3 million apprenticeships should they be re-elected. Read more about Mr Hancock’s recent speech at the Semta Skills Awards in this piece.

Cutting it Fine

Lord Mandelson has warned that cuts in vital courses may be seen if there are reductions in funding for Higher Education, according to this Independent article. The Labour party are feeling the pressure to drop any ideas for cutting tuition fees from £9000 to £6000, plans that have been described as “very foolish” by Vince Cable. Labour have not yet released any details of their upcoming policy, but could do so soon.

Grade Inflation

The ever-present debate on ‘grade inflation’ continues, with the release of the HEFCE – Higher Education Funding Council for England – report, published on February 26th. Previously thought to be largely concerned with GCSE and A Level school-leavers, the grade inflation phenomenon is now said to include BTEC students, which may be of concern to universities. A rise in BTEC students may mean a fall in university sign-ups, as these students in many cases see the qualification as a replacement for a traditional degree. Read the article on the Times Higher Education site here.

A Second Chance

Everyone loves a second chance at something they really want. The UCAS deadline may have been January 15th for September applications – but if you still haven’t heard anything then take heart. From February 25th, there’s UCAS Extra – which is a second chance opportunity for candidates to apply for other courses, if they originally used all five choices in their first application. It remains open until early July and there’s no extra charge – read more about it here.

Controversial Lecturer

The Guardian led their Education section recently with this rather sinister story. It points out the pressure by campaigners on London Metropolitan University to sack the academic Bob Lambert, who lectures on Criminology. Alleged accusations fly – of former covert work with the Metropolitan Police’s Undercover Unit, to alleged scandalous affairs and more.

Think Before You Tweet

And finally… how’s the weather where you are? The Telegraph online reports on how a US student foolishly challenged his University president over a snowy issue with a tweet. The student got a little more than he bargained for when his challenger turned up and showed him a little effort was all that was required. He really should have attended that class!

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