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Search out sponsors like Google, report recommends

A report has proposed that multinational companies buy stakes in FE colleges, creating institutions such as "Google College" or "Dyson College". The Skills Commission - a group bringing together FE sector experts and parliamentarians, chaired by MP Barry Sheerman and Dame Ruth Silver, former principal of Lewisham College - argues that colleges need to develop specialist, employer-led provision to counter declining public investment. That could come in the form of partnerships with individual employers, Local Enterprise Partnerships or new, branded colleges backed by blue-chip companies. Alternatively, colleges could take on the role of consultancies for business development in their area - an idea the commission nicknames "McKinsey Colleges" after the management consultancy. It also suggests that specialisation might improve teaching quality: Ofsted data show that 14 out of 17 specialist institutions are rated good or outstanding.

Report of 150,000 overstayers is 'misleading'

English language colleges have accused the UK Border Agency of a "seriously misleading" report, which claims that 150,000 international students may have overstayed their visas. The agency says there is a backlog of 152,000 cases where they have been notified of a change in students' circumstances, which potentially means "thousands" could have overstayed. But Tony Millns, chief executive of English UK, said the agency is not pursuing these students because they know there is likely to be nothing wrong. He said students can be caught in the system if they have offers of places at two institutions and pick one, for instance. "Sponsors don't want bogus or overstaying students, so they are scrupulously reporting everything that the law requires," he said. "It's clear the Border Agency hasn't been pursuing most of these supposed 150,000 overstayers because they know perfectly well they don't exist."

Coalition adopts Labour's TechBac

The Technical Baccalaureate proposed by Ed Miliband in his Labour Party conference speech is to be adopted by the coalition, FE minister Matthew Hancock said. The new course will combine vocational qualifications, extended maths, a project and work experience and will be available from 2014. The news comes as the government prepares to dramatically restrict the qualifications that will count towards league tables and be eligible for the TechBac. Around 90 per cent of the 4,000 qualifications currently eligible are expected to be cut, and those that remain will have an emphasis on external assessment as well as recognition by universities and employers. The Department for Education said that 45 per cent of 16- to 18-year-old students take at least one vocational qualification, up from 31 per cent in 2008.

Prospects for Essex apprentices get a #163;10m boost

Prospects Learning Foundation has opened a #163;10 million centre to host a Group Training Association (GTA), a training provider that works for subscribing employers, often helping smaller businesses to train apprentices. Prospects has provided #163;2 million in funding for the centre - its third - with the remainder coming from public grants. The centre is home to 300 apprentices and 200 FE students in Basildon, Essex and focuses on qualifications in building services. "Because the GTA is led by local employers, businesses can easily appreciate the modern, industry-led skills training areas on offer," said Neil Bates, chief executive of Prospects. He added that not-for-profit GTAs could help to boost apprentice numbers at 16 to 18.

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