News round-up: Headteachers call for an end to unconditional offers

Private school heads argue that unconditional offers lead to worse A-level results, while vice-chancellors say that essay mills should be made illegal


Top schools call for an end to universities’ use of unconditional offers

The Guardian, 28/08/2018, Richard Adams

Elite private schools have called for universities to cut back on the use of unconditional offers for undergraduate places over fears that pupils will not be motivated to strive for high A-level grades.

Mike Buchanan, the executive director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents many of the country’s most expensive independent schools, claimed that pupils “take their foot off the gas” after accepting offers that do not require specific A-level grades.


University chiefs ‘urge education secretary to ban essay mills’

The Guardian, 27/09/2018, Press Association

More than 40 university chiefs are reported to have written to the education secretary calling for a ban on so-called “essay mills”.

The vice-chancellors have called for companies who offer essay-writing services to be made illegal amid fears they are undermining the integrity of degree courses.


Make Oxbridge admissions a lottery, Sutton Trust head says

Times Higher Education, 27/09/2018, Anna McKie

Admissions to the UK’s most selective universities should be determined by lotteries among students who pass a grade threshold, leading educationalists say in a new book.

Lee Elliot Major, chief executive of the Sutton Trust, and Stephen Machin, professor of economics at the London School of Economics, argue in Social Mobility and Its Enemies that random allocation of places at institutions such as the universities of Oxford and Cambridge would sweep aside the unfair advantages enjoyed by middle-class students who went to elite schools and were coached through the application process by their parents.


Global rivals catching up as British universities suffer year of stagnation

The Times, 26/09/2018, Rosemary Bennett

British universities have had a year of “stagnation and modest decline” with rivals emerging from Japan and even Iraq, according to a new ranking.

Experts who compiled the Times Higher Education 2019 World University Rankings warned that “complacency and politicking” by the government would make matters worse, as would cuts to budgets.


Labour MPs question party’s pledge to abolish fees

Times Higher Education, 26/09/2018, Simon Baker

Two Labour backbenchers with strong links to students have questioned the party’s policy to abolish tuition fees in England and have called for a debate on it, ahead of the publication of the next manifesto.

Rosie Duffield, Canterbury MP, said the party should “keep that conversation open” and Wes Streeting, Ilford North MP and former National Union of Students president, called the policy a “middle-class subsidy”, in comments at a Labour Students fringe meeting at the party conference in Liverpool.


First-generation students less likely to pick arts and humanities

Times Higher Education, 26/09/2018, Simon Baker

Are students who are the first in their family to go to university more likely to choose a subject that would appear to give them a defined career path?

The intuitive answer that many people might give to this would be “yes”, but it appears that new data released by England’s Office for Students may also back this up.


More harmonious Open University looks to the future

Times Higher Education, 25/09/2018, Jack Grove

Almost six months after the sudden exit of its vice-chancellor Peter Horrocks, the UK’s Open University is hoping to turn a new page in its history.

This week the distance learning provider’s council was due to consider plans to cut £30 million from its £420 million budget and shed about 10 per cent of its degrees. If ratified, the plans are likely to be announced next month, clearing the way for a less tumultuous year in 2019, when the institution will celebrate its 50th anniversary.


Prominent black Cambridge University graduates celebrated

BBC, 25/09/2018, anonymous

A new exhibition will celebrate prominent black graduates from Cambridge University.

Fourteen portraits, along the library’s Royal Corridor, feature the first black students and more well-known alumni.

The exhibition includes portraits of actor Thandie Newton and author Zadie Smith and opens on 1 October.


MBAs are a good use of apprenticeship levy, says university head

Financial Times, 23/09/2018, Jonathan Moules

The head of one of the country’s top universities for business education has defended the use of the apprenticeship levy to send senior executives on MBA courses, claiming that better management is key to fixing the UK’s productivity crisis.

Alec Cameron, vice-chancellor of Aston University, which is launching the first levy-funded MBA tailored for the manufacturing sector, said critics of the programmes failed to acknowledge the value well-trained leaders bring to an organisation.


First Russell Group ‘earn as you learn’ degree launched by Exeter University 

Daily Telegraph, 17/09/2018, Camilla Turner

The first Russell Group “earn as you learn” degree has been launched, as Exeter University and the investment back J. P. Morgan announce a partnership.

Students who enrol on the “degree apprenticeship” course will study for one day a week, and the rest time they will be placed in one of J. P. Morgan’s teams earning a salary of £21,000 per year in London or £17,000 in Bournemouth.