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Mature students fear fees hike

Applications for HE courses in colleges have suffered a 10 per cent fall as older learners appeared to be more discouraged than others by the prospect of higher fees. The number of applicants fell by 3,751 to 31,754, according to figures from Ucas, a greater drop than the total number of applicants for higher education, which fell 7.4 per cent. Paul Stanistreet, policy lead for higher education at the adult education body NIACE, said that there were serious questions about the effect of fees on mature students, who often chose to study in colleges. "A drop in mature applicants would seriously dent the government's ambitions around social mobility and economic renewal, and sends an unfortunate message with regard to the emerging shape of the reformed HE sector," he said.

More teachers are aiming higher

The numbers of FE teachers declaring their continuing professional development to the Institute for Learning reached 75 per cent last year, up from 66 per cent two years ago. FE teachers continue to split their development time between updating vocational skills and on teaching and learning, the institute said in its review. But it said that most employers were choosing to invest in directed and mandatory training for their staff, which was less likely to be effective in motivating teachers than allowing them to plan their own provision. "Many employers over-manage and structure CPD (continuing professional development) for teachers and trainers, thereby squeezing out the very thing they seek: highly effective development leading to brilliant teaching practice," said Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the institute.

Cut in apprenticeship funding is a 'risk too far'

Training providers have criticised plans to reduce apprenticeship funding for 16- to 18-year-olds by 2 per cent at a time when their role in reducing youth unemployment is a priority. The Association of Employment and Learning Providers said the change was intended to equalise funding rates between schools, colleges and private providers, but it came at a time when it could be a "risk too far" for the growth of under-19 apprenticeships. "Cutting rates certainly does not appear to fit in with the expressed need to carry on developing and improving the quality of apprenticeships whilst continuing to expand the numbers," the association said.

UCU proposes institute overhaul

The University and College Union has proposed a revamp of the Institute for Learning, the statutory membership body for FE teachers, as a voluntary organisation funded by the sector. In its submission to the review of FE professionalism, the UCU said that its members supported the institute's role in lobbying for professional recognition of FE and campaigning for an entitlement to training and development, but showed little support for regulation and licensing. As a result, they are proposing a voluntary organisation along the lines of the Higher Education Academy. "If an organisation is to exist, they want it to be able to promote the profession, and they want an organisation that is capable of holding employers to account over providing high-quality CPD (continuing professional development). What most do not want is a regulatory or licensing body along the lines of the soon-to-be-abolished General Teaching Council for England," said Sally Hunt, the UCU's general secretary.

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