News in brief

May 29, 2008

Educational qualifications

Diplomas get limited welcome

Some 70 universities have said that they will welcome applications from students holding the new 14-19 diploma qualification, statements provided to the Universities and Colleges Admission Service show. But the number of pupils taking the first diplomas is half the number that the Government had hoped would sign up, with 20,000 students taking the first five diplomas, which begin this autumn. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge are still considering whether to accept students taking the diploma at its most advanced level.

Workforce reskilling

Never too late to study: Denham

Universities Secretary John Denham has called on UK employees to take up the chance to go to university. Speaking last week at the University of Southampton, Mr Denham reiterated the Government's commitment to get up to six million employees with A-level or equivalent qualifications to undertake further study. "(The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills's) own research found that four million people are considering, or willing to consider, participating in higher education," Mr Denham said. "There may be others who consider, quite wrongly, that their time has passed." The Government has said that if the country is to remain internationally competitive, 40 per cent of the working population should have been through higher education by 2020 - up from the present figure of 31 per cent. Keith Herrmann, deputy chief executive of the Council for Industry and Higher Education, said: "A lot of employers aren't interested in higher education or qualifications ... The message to employers is that the need to invest in skills is not for the sake of it, it's for ensuring the repositioning of companies and ensuring their global competitiveness." Lizzi Holman, policy adviser in the Skills and Education group at the Confederation of British Industry, said: "Employers are ready to get on board if the courses that universities offer, the qualifications, are right and are flexible."

Research management

Support structures studied

A study aimed at "transforming research management into a recognised career" has been launched by Imperial College London and the University of Bristol. The project will study current research support structures in a sample of UK universities to determine whether accreditation and further training for support staff are needed. The project is supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Medical Research Council.

- See

Widening participation in science

Ambassador initiative to expand

The Government hopes to expand the number of its science and engineering ambassadors, who work to encourage school pupils to consider careers in the fields, to ,000 over the next three years. There are currently 18,000 ambassadors, but Science Minister Ian Pearson said this week that he would increase funding for the scheme by almost £2 million to a total of £7.4 million. He said: "The programme is the epitome of effective partnership ... with businesses of all sizes contributing enthusiastic and expert volunteers to serve as role models in schools."

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