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Further afield

Largest college offers lowest degree fees

The biggest FE college in the country is offering the cheapest degrees, new figures show. According to the Office for Fair Access, in 201213 the Manchester College will charge an average tuition fee of pound;5,585 for its higher education qualifications - almost pound;3,000 below the national average. The college says this reflects its commitment to widening participation and raising attainment throughout the local community. Acting principal Barbara Forshaw said: "In today's uncertain economic climate, our top priority is to reduce the financial strain on our students and ensure higher education remains affordable and inclusive. We hope that our competitive fees will encourage people from all walks of life to apply to the college in the future."

Former cricket star helps raise cash for jobless young

A charitable foundation set up by West Nottinghamshire College principal Asha Khemka is celebrating a major cash boost. The Inspire and Achieve Foundation, which tackles youth unemployment and disengagement, raised more than pound;33,000 at its second annual gala fundraising dinner. More than 100 guests attended the black-tie dinner and charity auction at Lord's cricket ground in London, and the guest speaker was former England cricket captain Mike Gatting (pictured). Proceeds from the event will go towards plans to create a vocational support centre for hard-to-reach young people. Mrs Khemka said: "The event was a fantastic success, both in terms of boosting funds and shining the spotlight on the very serious issue of youth unemployment."

Campaign launched to preserve rural skills

Norton Radstock College in Somerset has launched a campaign to preserve traditional rural skills such as hedgerow laying and tree planting. The initiative grew out of the college's work on the Envolwe European project, in which it ran a series of training courses for people involved in rural tourism businesses. The college is working with local business to offer work experience opportunities and apprenticeships. Horticulture students have also worked on carrying out woodland and conservation tasks, developing watering systems and restoring ponds. Project co-ordinator Rosaleen Courtney said: "What is really nice is that so many people in the rural areas want to help young people and give them an opportunity to work in rural businesses and keep local skills alive."

LEPs are key to economic growth, says report

Local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) are playing a key role in creating "sustainable, long-term economic growth", according to a new report. The study, carried out by the 157 Group of large colleges, the Local Government Association and the British Chambers of Commerce, considered the role of LEPs in articulating and addressing skills needs. It highlighted effective practice, issues and areas for improvement. Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group, said: "The role of LEPs in providing strategic leadership and addressing local priorities is central to the Government's strategy for sustainable, long-term economic growth. Its skills strategy envisages that colleges, universities and other providers will work collaboratively with local partners to ensure that the skills demands of individual learners and employers are met."

Drama students perform at National Theatre

Performing arts students at Walsall College had the once in a lifetime opportunity to appear in a play at the National Theatre in London. The students' production of Gap by playwright Alia Bano was one of 10 winners in a contest run by the theatre to unearth talented young performers across the country. The group appeared in front of a sell-out crowd earlier this month. Lecturer Kerry Downing said: "Our students have given their own time to part of this excellent opportunity and it has been a pleasure working with them in a professional environment. They have given passionate and high-quality performances that have been well received by the audience and judges."

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