News in brief

December 13, 2012

Quality assurance

Two bodies, one vision

The Quality Assurance Agency and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator have committed to sharing information. A co-signed memorandum of understanding recognises the bodies' "complementary and distinctive roles, and commits both sides to sharing information relevant to developing the risk-based approach to regulation in higher education". Anthony McClaran, QAA chief executive, said: "Both organisations have seen an increase in the numbers of concerns and complaints we've had from students about their higher education experience. This agreement recognises our respective roles and responsibilities, and the independence of our avoid unnecessary duplication of effort." The government's 2010 higher education White Paper said sharing of information by the bodies could be an "ad hoc" trigger that leads to a full QAA inspection of a university.

Overseas student fees

Renminbi accepted here

A service allowing Chinese students to pay course fees at UK universities in their own currency, thus avoiding bank transfer charges, has been launched. The two firms behind the system, Uni-Pay and Alipay, have said that they will not charge universities and colleges to use the service. Currently, Chinese students must pay fees via an international bank transfer in a currency such as US dollars, which often incurs charges, the firms say. Simon Read, managing director of Uni-Pay, said: "At a time when the UK needs to work hard on its reputation for welcoming genuine students, a development like this...reduces costs and removes barriers."

Fair access

Bragging letters

Prospective students from private schools are much more likely to submit good personal statements to support their university applications, a study has found. The report, commissioned by fair access charity the Sutton Trust, calls into question the fairness of drawing on the statements, which are a key part of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service process for applying to higher education institutions. For the report, Steven Jones, a senior lecturer in education at the University of Manchester, analysed 309 personal statements, all of which were submitted to the same department at the same research-intensive university by students with the same A-level results. He found that clear writing errors were three times commoner in the personal statements of applicants from state schools and sixth-form colleges than in those from independent schools. Private-school applicants listed the highest number of work-related activities and drew on more prestigious experiences, the report says.

Employability survey

Fees dissuade one in three

More than a third of young people in the UK are turned off post-secondary training or education because of the perceived cost, a report has found. McKinsey & Company, the global management consultancy firm, surveyed more than 8,000 education providers, employers and young people in nine countries. Education to Employment: Designing a System That Works argues that education systems are failing to prepare young people for work. Only 43 per cent of employers surveyed agreed that they could find enough skilled entry-level workers, it says, yet an estimated 75 million young people are unemployed across the world. The survey was conducted in Turkey, India, Brazil, the US, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the UK and Morocco.


Debate was stirred online by last week's lead news story on indications that staff-student ratio statistics may be flawed. Ironically, a contributor posting as "Lies, damn lies" questioned the accuracy of the main evidence base for the claims: the Transparent Approach to Costing survey, which aims to measure the time that academics spend teaching. "Trouble is that TRAC is a complete fiction. Every quarter we're required to fill it in, so retrospectively make up some reasonable-looking numbers and shove them in. But they're at very best guesses."

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