Today's news

February 9, 2004

Universities warned of price-fixing fines on fees
An Oxford solicitors firm that specialises in education law, has written to its clients, including Oxford University, saying that if, as expected, most universities charge the full top-up fee amount, they could be penalised by the Office of Fair Trading. Blake Lapthorn Linnell say that universities that have held discussions over the level of top-up fees they plan to charge could be fined for price fixing. The solicitors' letter acknowledges that although "charging the appropriate level of fees is always fraught with difficulty", it appeared that "some education institutions think that competition law does not apply to them". The regulator has powers to impose fines of up to 10 per cent of three years' turnover on any organisation found guilty of breaching competition law.
( Times )

Colleges demand £1.9bn to hit targets
The Association of Colleges has demanded an extra £1.9 billion in funding to achieve the government's education targets. A third of the 450 colleges are in deficit and 80 have been classed as financially weak by government regulators. John Brennan, the association's chief executive, said that ministers expected further education colleges to take growing numbers of pupils aged 14 to 16 from schools as part of the government's drive to provide more work-based education. Colleges were also expected to help an increasing number of older teenagers to qualify for university, expand provision of new work-related foundation degrees and assist employers by boosting adult training.
( Times )

£80,000 win for stressed lecturer
An English lecturer has won £80,000 from Henley College in Coventry for the stress that she suffered in her 70-hour-a-week job. She has not worked since 1998 when she had a nervous breakdown after being persuaded to take on extra duties in addition to her heavy teaching schedule.
( Times, Daily Express )

14-year-old 'apprentices' to escape the classroom
Ministers are to announce a new "junior apprenticeship" scheme next month under which 14 to 16-year-olds can spend two days a week at work, one day at college and two days in school. They will learn on the job from skilled workers such as plumbers, joiners, electricians and IT operators. A briefing note by the Department for Education and Skills says that thousands of 14 and 15-year-olds will be given the opportunity to go out to work as part of the scheme, which is seen as part of an attempt to plug the skills gap in the United Kingdom that has left industry short of skilled workers.
( Independent )

Museums fight to keep tax loophole
Hundreds of independent museums face financial disaster when the government abolishes a small, obscure tax concession that allows charities to reclaim tax on donations from UK taxpayers. In the last two years museums, encouraged by the Association of Independent Museums, and some independent consultants, realised they could take advantage of a "gift aid" tax concession by nominally admitting visitors for free if they agreed to make a "donation" equal to the admission fee. The piece of tidying up by the Treasury, barely noticed in the chancellor's pre-budget statement in December, is estimated to lose the museum sector £10 million a year.
( Guardian )

Higher education items in the weekend press
- Cambridge throws off elitist image as 3 colleges take only state school applicants. ( Independent on Sunday )
- Skills gap fear as universities cut back on modern language courses. ( Mail on Sunday )
- Students angry as Harriet Harman's son was not kicked out of his university digs for smoking dope. ( Mail on Sunday , Independent , February 7)
- Luton: is this the worst university in Britain? ( Sunday Times )
- Many youngsters still see a degree as a chance for a better future despite the debt. ( Sunday Times )
- Scientists on the run from urban terrorists over research centres. ( Sunday Times )
- Top-up fees for student doctors set to be scrapped. ( Sunday People )
- Southampton University is transferring sports students to other colleges in order to close courses and save money. ( Times , Guardian , February 7)
- Feature on the rising popularity of the Open University. ( Daily Telegraph , February 7)
- Comment on the standard of education and the need for alternative entrance examinations at some universities. ( Daily Mirror , February 7)
- Researchers say that students who receive financial bursaries are less likely to drop out. ( Guardian , February 7)
- Students and staff at the University of Kent are being offered the MMR jab after an outbreak of mumps. ( Guardian , February 7)

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