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Further afield

ALP fighting to prevent capital grant blow

Capital grants for private training providers could be blocked after one scheme was challenged for allegedly breaching European Union state aid rules on unfair competition. The move has raised fears that others among more than 70 projects in progress could be stalled with similar challenges. The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) says it is working with the Skills Funding Agency to ensure that all projects comply. "Early indications suggest that only a very small number of schemes fall into this `at risk' category," a spokesman for the ALP said. "Nevertheless, this is a worrying time for many ALP members, who will have expended considerable amounts of their own money to get these matched funded projects off the ground." He added that it should not be necessary for a wholesale stoppage of the private training providers' capital projects.

Ensure your college gets the Queen's seal of approval

Colleges will next month be invited to apply for the Queen's Anniversary Prizes scheme for further and higher education. The biennial awards are part of the national honours system and are intended to recognise world- class achievement in education. The deadline is April 1 next year. In 2009, prizes went to Aberdeen College for its work training workers in the oil and gas industry, to City College Norwich for its centre helping people with Asperger's syndrome into further learning and employment, and to City of Sunderland College for its promotion of maths and literacy classes.

Work under way on Harlow's university centre

Harlow College has marked the beginning of the construction of its pound;9 million university centre aimed at widening HE participation in Essex. The three-storey, 2,400 square metre facility was partly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to create new opportunities for higher level study in areas with little provision. Students will join courses accredited by Anglia Ruskin University. Professor Michael Thorne, vice-chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, said: "It provides an excellent example of how further education and higher education can work together. This centre will provide a new focus for education in Harlow, encouraging innovation and aspiration."

Norway's relaxed regime could have lessons for UK

A study comparing FE teachers in England and Wales and those in Norway found Norwegian teachers were less burdened by assessment, bureaucracy and paperwork and more likely to complete their work within their contracted hours. The study by Caroline Lloyd and Jonathan Payne from Cardiff University found that the Norwegian government's intervention in further education was usually restricted to initial teacher training and professional development rather than monitoring. It said: "The UK Government's stated wish to move away from heavy bureaucratic controls and trust teachers could move England closer to the Norwegian model. Realising these objectives will be a real challenge but has the potential to enable teachers to be more creative in their teaching and in their links with employers."

Football hopefuls to get second chance in Thailand

Tameside College in Greater Manchester has set up an exchange programme to give aspiring footballers the chance to play professionally and study overseas. Linking up with the Thai government, the college will give footballers who have missed the cut at elite level the chance to study and play in the Thai pro-leagues, while promising Thai players will be linked with clubs in the North West of England while studying with the college. Chris Massey, head of international business at the college, said: "The Thai project will have an immense impact on young Thai and UK athletes by equipping them with the skills to compete with the very best in the world. It will provide a wide range of employment opportunities for those who ultimately don't make it in the professional world, by combining cultural and educational links embedded into all sporting disciplines."

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