HE sector in the news

There were several education related items of news today. Two in particular caught my eye.

A 10,000 increase in student numbers was announced by the Government. However, the places are only part funded; institutions will receive the fee income but no increase in grants for teaching. This perhaps leaves the institutions between a rock and a hard place – with the drive for the sector to help lead the country out of the recession and the emphasis on the increased numbers being mainly in science and engineering subjects (investing in the country’s future), institutions are not in a position to decline the increase. However, the focus subjects are also the most expensive – this can only add pressure on funding within institutions and a commensurate impact on service departments.

A Commons Select Committee reported on ‘bogus colleges’ in the UK used in order to generate fraudulent applications for visas. The report focused primarily on the system being replaced by the incoming points based immigration system. This had led to ‘thousands’ of foreign nationals entering the system illegally. The committee welcomed the tighter procedures with the new system – there were currently around 2200 ‘colleges’ that had not transferred from the old system to the new. It was, however, disappointing that the benefit of protecting the reputation of the UK education sector by rooting out sham institutions was not highlighted. With growing international competition, a reduction in the number of such institutions must benefit the sector.

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