Browne proposals could spell the end for BEds, universities warn

15th October 2010 at 01:00
Radical funding changes could also reduce diversity of entrants to profession

Radical changes to university funding included in the Browne review could threaten the future of undergraduate teacher training courses, experts have warned.

The recommendations could stop those with low A-level results being accepted on to BEd courses as well as subjecting those who do embark on training to a fees hike, according to universities.

Lord Browne also recommended that universities have a quota of places for students without traditional qualifications. It is feared this could lead to a reduction in the diversity of entrants to the profession.

The long-awaited review of higher education funding recommends that loans and grants are only awarded to students who meet a "minimum entry standard based on aptitude".

"This will ensure that the system is responding to demand from those who are qualified to benefit from higher education," the review says.

Only 57 per cent of those starting undergraduate teaching courses in 2007 had A-levels, with an average Ucas tariff score of 267, the equivalent of two C-grades and a B at A-level. Under the Browne review, the proportion of places reserved for undergraduates without traditional qualifications could be just 10 per cent.

Claire Callender, professor of higher education at the Institute of Education and Birkbeck College, University of London, is concerned that those hoping to become teachers will have to "compete" for limited places.

"We don't know how they will be allocated, so this could affect mature students," she said. "I'm worried it could prove problematic and lead to more people being excluded from teacher training.

"I'm also concerned about the effect of these proposals on children. It might not help widen participation in higher education and could disadvantage those from schools which don't have such good A-level results."

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said the new minimum entry standards should be different for each subject.

"These proposals could have supply implications for the teaching workforce and good-quality undergraduate courses could be hit," he said. "The Government needs to consider carefully the implications for recruitment to teacher training courses."

Lord Browne did not consider undergraduate teacher training courses separately in his review. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will respond to his proposals, and how they might affect BEd and teaching BA courses, later this year.

The Browne review warned that higher undergraduate fees could have an impact on postgraduate courses, which would include the PGCE.

"Trends in postgraduate study should therefore be monitored carefully, including after the introduction of any further changes to funding and student finance," the report said.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

The proposals

- No limit on fees charged by universities.

- Levy on fees above #163;6,000 to help Government provide students with financial help.

- Public investment in universities to continue at current levels.

- Repayment of fees to begin when salary reaches #163;21,000.

- All students entitled to loans of #163;3,750 a year.

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